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Germination Notes

March 8th, 2017

Every year I watch closely as I start seeds, taking note of germination rates for new seed and old seed. Lettuce is one of those things that I started buying fresh each year after noticing reduced germination from even year old seed. This year, I purchased a few new varieties to try.


I noticed that one variety in particular has not germinated at all – zero seeds have germinated. With other varieties I have around 95% germination rate. Instead of writing them off (or writing the company), I decided to give them another go. Yesterday I seeded three more soil blocks of ‘Alkindus’ lettuce. I’ll keep my eye on them, if I don’t get any germination this time around I’ll definitely write the company and see if they’ve had similar complaints. Since I had such great germination of all other varieties in the flat, I know it’s not the conditions.

Do you have certain seed you buy fresh each year? Have you noticed decreased germination rates in old seed?

Fresh Seed

February 18th, 2016

I’ve blogged about the shelf life of seeds and even made a seed viability chart a few years ago. You can see the shelf life of seed chart here. You may think it’s not important to check seed freshness, store seed in specific ways, or purchase new seed of specific types of vegetables each year. Here’s a great demonstration of the importance of fresh seed:
lettuce seedlings 1
As you can see by this image the seeds on the right hand side had slow or very low germination. This seed was purchased last winter for spring sowing. It germinated beautifully last spring. This year, germination is slow and spotty. Most likely these seeds will still germinate, though they will do so in a few weeks instead of a few days.
lettuce seedlings 2
As you can see on the right hand side of the flat, germination was great with the fresh seed purchased this spring. With garden seed, you don’t know exactly how old the seed is when you get it. Thus, lettuce seed may have a decent shelf life, but the seed you purchase may already be a few years old. It pays to watch germination rates and figure out if your seed supplier is perhaps using not so fresh seed. I have great long-term germination rates when purchasing seed from farm supply business like Johnny’s Selected Seeds and High Mowing Seeds.
Shelf life of seeds
When it doubt about the viability of your seeds, throw them out (or feed it to the chickens like I do). The longer I garden the more I realize the benefits of starting with fresh seed. For me, an extra 10 days under the grow light waiting for slow germination throws off my entire system. I’d much rather spend an extra $4 buying a fresh pack of lettuce seed that will germinate faster, grow faster, and reach harvest stage a week or two early than it is to save seed packets from year to year. If you want ultra fresh seed, save your own lettuce seed. I do this for a few varieties that I love.

How often do you cull old seeds and get fresh?

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About

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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