HOW LONG DO VEGETABLE SEEDS LAST?
Springtime comes, and along with it the colorful garden seed displays in stores and shopping malls. Add to that the garden catalogs that tempt you to load up your shopping cart. How can we resist?
But one important consideration when purchasing garden seeds is their Life Expectancy, which is usually called Viability. When planning your garden, always first ask yourself, just how long do vegetable seeds last?
If you save your leftover vegetable seeds from year to year, their ability to sprout and grow will drop off sharply after the first year or two. This varies depending on the type of seeds you are growing.
You need to remember that seeds gathered in the Summer won’t be planted in your garden till the next Spring. By the time they sprout, the seeds are already nearly a year old.
Ask yourself: Do you really want to invest this much effort for unsatisfactory results? Using up precious garden space to produce feeble plants or having a window sill full of seed pots that fail to sprout at all is a complete waste of time.
Using Heirloom seeds is a fine alternative. You buy only once, then save your own seed each year so they are always fresh and vital.
The viability of the seeds you buy are affected by the way they are gathered, dried, packaged, and stored till time of purchase. Some garden suppliers sell seeds that have a far better chance of sprouting than other companies.
Proper storage is a must. Unused seeds should be put back in the packet with clean, dry hands. Tape the packet shut. Place the seed packets in a zip-lock plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator. Be very careful not to crush the packet.
The moral of the story is don’t go overboard when buying seeds. They get old!
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LIFE EXPECTANCY OF VEGETABLE SEEDS
Seeds that are only good for 1 year are: Leeks, Onions, Parsnips, and Salsify.
- Salsify seeds are best disposed of after you plant what you want for that year. Buy fresh seeds for the following season.
Seeds that are only good for 2 years are: Corn, Okra, and Peppers.
- Corn seeds will last between 1 and 2 years. Don’t expect much out of them as they approach the 2 year mark.
- Peppers might possibly last as long as 4 years, but you are really pushing the envelope.
Seeds that are only good for 3 years are: Asparagus, Arugula, Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Chinese Cabbage, Peas, and Spinach.
- Some knowledgeable gardeners claim that Broccoli seeds might last from 3 to 5 years with luck!
- The same is said of Spinach seeds. The general belief is that they can last from 2 to 3 years. Some gardeners claim they have saved theirs as long as 5 years, but had only a meager crop after 3 years.
Seeds that are only good for 4 years are: Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Fennel, Kale, Kohlrabi, Melons, Mustard, Pumpkins, Rutabagas, Squash (Summer and Winter), Swiss Chard, and Tomatoes.
- Cabbage, Eggplant, Kohlrabi, and Squash seeds can sometimes last as long as 5 years, but I wouldn’t plan on a bumper crop out of them.
- Melon seeds (both Watermelon and Cantaloupe) are generally said to be good for 4 to 5 years.
Seeds that are only good for 5 years are: Artichokes, Celery, Celeriac, Collards, Cress, Cucumbers, Endive, Escarole, Lettuce, Radishes, and Turnips.
- Lettuce seeds can sometimes sprout for as high as 6 years.
THREE VEGETABLES THAT SHOULD NEVER BE STARTED FROM SEEDS
Three crops that should never be started from seeds are:
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Sweet Potatoes
Jerusalem Artichokes are usually sterile. Those that do produce a few seeds do not come back true-to-type. In other words, the taste will be disappointing and the plants inferior. Since they grow well when using tubers, you plant them once, stand back, and wait for them to take over your yard. They are often spotted growing wild along country roadsides.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes can sometimes produce seeds from their blossoms, but this is rare. The result is similar to that of Jerusalem Artichokes. Planting the small potatoes saved from last year after they sprout is not too much of a chore when you consider that this is one of the most popular vegetables in the U.S.A.
And a bumper crop will give you bragging rights!
HAPPY PLANTING! Susan