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Nothing Wasted

January 11th, 2014

I mentioned earlier this week that I was going through my seed stash and being ruthless about weeding out old seed.  Last year, I did a few experiments with seed for the same vegetable from differing years (seeds were from the same company).  The fresh seed germinated much quicker and the seedlings were much stronger and were more resistant to stress induced issues (like too much sun, not enough water, etc).  
new seedlings
After my experiments, I decided it was worth it to start each year with seed that is as fresh as possible.  Some seeds stay fresher longer than other, brassicas and tomatoes are among those, thus I’ll keep those seeds for a few years.  Onion seeds on the other hand really shouldn’t be saved from year to year.  I will no longer be pushing the dates for viability of seed, it’s just not worth my time to risk things not germinating or seedlings not thriving.  For a downloadable seed shelf life chart head on over to this post and download the PDF.
sprouts 2
The seeds could have been thrown in the compost pile, but I decided to sprout them for my chickens instead. Of course you could sprout them for yourself if you don’t have chickens. I knew these hard working ladies would appreciate some lovely green sprouts in the middle of the winter, they’re still laying so well, I decided to give the sprouts to them instead of eating them myself. They’ll give them back to me in the form of big, beautiful eggs.
sprouts 1
Sprouting seeds is as easy as can be, and you don’t need any special supplies. A glass jar and a piece of cheesecloth will do. Simply soak seeds for a few hours or overnight, drain out water and set jar upside down, tipped slightly in a bowl to drain excess water. Rinse several times a day when you remember, draining the water each time. Rinsing is important to keep mold away! In a few days sprouts will start to appear, when they are to your liking – enjoy!
What could be easier than that. This is also a good way to watch how seeds germinate and to monitor the different germination times with different vegetables.

What do you do with your old garden seed?

9 Comments to “Nothing Wasted”
  1. Jandra on January 11, 2014 at 5:51 am

    This year I also plan to chuck out the older seed and start with fresh.

    As far as sprouting you old seeds, I am always afraid that the commercial seed might have been chemically treated if it isn’t organic. Unless is it sold specifically for sprouting, of course. So personally I’d hesitate to do this. I haven’t done any reasearch, though, so perhaps I am overly cautious.

    Happy growing!

    Reply to Jandra's comment

    • Susy on January 11, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Generally seeds that are treated are labeled as so, it’s more of an issue with beans/peas, other legumes, and corn which are frequently treated with fungicides. I don’t think you have to worry too much about the typical vegetable seeds.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Lemongrass on January 11, 2014 at 6:17 am

    I usually swap my excess seeds so as not to have them pile. The older ones I sow veggies in a small 4×8 inch box for greens. Lots of seeds drive me crazy I make an effort not to have too much at any given time.
    Sprouting is the best way to use them.

    Reply to Lemongrass's comment

  3. Donna A. on January 11, 2014 at 8:37 am

    What a great way to reward your ladies! Great idea, Susy!

    Reply to Donna A.'s comment

  4. Nebraska Dave on January 11, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Susy, I’m going to try something different this year. I will be trying to sprout seeds from last year to test for germination. If they do start to sprout, then I’ll plant them in seed pods. I never tried that before but I always thought it might work. I have a box full of seeds from the year 2012 which may just get pitched. I have received some of my fresh seeds from Baker Creek for this year’s planting to guarantee some good germination. This will be a year to just play around with different things as it looks like I’ll only have a small garden. That could be a could thing as it will give me extra time to work on unfinished projects around the Urban Ranch.

    Weather here is like yours there in Maine. Bitter cold one day and balmy the next. We are headed into several days of 40s with a follow up of days in the 30s. Hopefully the really nasty cold weather is over for this year.

    Have a great seed sorting day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  5. Dorothy Donatello on January 11, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Suzy , A quick question I would like to order Astragalus Root from Mountain Rose Herbs. However I am a bit leary because it comes from China. I know its off topic but I know you have used it in a prior post. Which one would be the best choice.

    Thanks for the input love your blog.

    Reply to Dorothy Donatello's comment

    • Susy on January 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      You can grow your own astragulus if you want, I plan on adding it to my garden in the future. While I’m leery of buying things from China, I trust Mt Rose Herbs and their choices.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Anna on January 13, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Very helpful post Susy…this year I bought all new seeds because I didn’t feel like pawing through my seeds and trying to figure out which ones are worth saving – especially since I’ve been disorganized about labeling the ages of them. It just seemed right to start over fresh & now I know that for the most part I should keep this habit up each year. So glad to see that your experiment showed stronger/healthier seedling.

    Reply to Anna's comment

  7. Robin on January 15, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I sprouted beans for the chickens and gave them to them yesterday. I haven’t been back to the hen house to see how well they like them but if it’s half as well as they like the freshly sprouted seeds in the garden, they were thrilled.

    Reply to Robin's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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