Author Topic: Seeds - best before dates  (Read 1096 times)

newspud9

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Seeds - best before dates
« on: November 15, 2019, 14:03:12 »
Now's the time I go through all the packets I've accumulated and I'm ashamed how many I haven't opened or only half-used.  I don't hang on to anything past its "sow by" date.  But I'm wondering how much seeds deteriorate when they've only got one year left to sow.  Do they tend to be less than 75% viable at that point or do they still have sufficient oomph to provide a decent crop.  I'm not talking about anything fancier than beetroot, peas, tomatoes, carrots and broccoli. Everything has been stored away from heat and light and in original packs.  Interested to know others' experiences.

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Seeds - best before dates
« on: November 15, 2019, 14:03:12 »

Obelixx

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2019, 14:36:35 »
Seed viability has as much to do with how they've been stored as to the species/variety.  i'd have thought the number of seeds in a pack had a part to play too.  If you have 100 seeds and use half in one go, 75% viability will still give you a useful number of plants from the 50 left.  Even if it's only 10 seeds left and it's a really tasty carrot or beetroot or tomato I certainly wouldn't throw them out.

Maybe try germinating them in good conditions next spring and see what you get.  Order spares of specific favourites just in case so you don't miss th eboat if none grow.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2019, 14:39:01 by Obelixx »
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galina

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2019, 14:49:48 »
There are some that are definitely more difficult as slightly older seeds than others.  Parsnips are almost always germinating sparsely if at all a year on,  peppers and onions are getting a bit tricky after two or three years.  You should get 4 years from a fresh packet of lettuce and brassica seeds.  Beans and peas also squashes and pumpkins are 5 or 6 years, tomatoes up to ten years.  The problem is that you do not know how old the seed was already when it was packed.  And that is the rub. 

The seed sellers guarantee nothing beyond that germination was decent at the time of packaging.  A lot could have happened to the packet before you bought and stored it in good conditions.  And what was good germination two years ago could still be good or already on a steep downhill slope.  Provided you sowed in the time before the end of the sowing date, you are always guaranteed to get a replacement packet.  What you do not get guaranteed is germination, unfortunately.  However it is the date that seed houses "expect" you should get decent germination.  After all their reputation hangs on that. 

It is always worth trying old seed and you do not lose much if you presow and then transplant, but if you sow directly outside the gamble is greater.  Where you would naturally make successive sowings outside or sow several varieties, it may not be as important as where you would normally only make one sowing and when that fails you would have to buy a new packet which puts the sowing calendar back. 

Personally, I would always sow in-date packets.  And I also sow out of date packets of those veggies that have long viability dates.  Unopened packets definitely especially foil packets, opened packets could have been damaged by moisture getting to the seeds and limiting viability.   

Try it, it works more often than not.  Especially when the older packet is of a second variety which you sow in addition to another from a new seed packet.  :wave:

Deb P

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2019, 18:28:34 »
I decided to use up a lot of my aged tomato seeds this year, betting mist will not germinate as over 10 years old......wrong! The germination ranged from nothing to everything with most inbetween, but still ended up giving loads away as had many more plants than expected....🥴
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Paulines7

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2019, 19:00:52 »
I have packets of seeds that are 10 years old and they still germinate.  I make sure I sow plenty in case some are past it, but I still end up with more plants than I really need. 

They say Parsnips seeds should not be out of date but I had some in planting tapes which had a "use by date" of 2016.  I planted them in May and I now have a huge crop of them.  I am waiting for the first hard frost as those that I harvested a few weeks back were not quite ready to be eaten.

saddad

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2019, 21:21:28 »
I agree with almost all of the above, but just can't get on with seed tapes....
Between us (Deb P and I) we must have over a 100 varieties of tomatoes and some are "getting on" so best to sow out and re save now and then!

BarriedaleNick

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2019, 09:09:38 »
I pay very little attention to sow by dates but I always hedge my bets (and I try to store seeds as best I can)
I figure I have very little to lose if I sow a packet that is out of date because the alternative is I chuck them away.  I prefer to give them a chance.
The exception to that is parsnips which I love but are a pain to germinate. 

ancellsfarmer

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2019, 09:25:40 »
Yes, we all intend to plant more than we do! The choices offered in catalogues etc, is akin to a kid let loose in a sweet shop. The nature of seeds is that we are ill-equipped to separate the finer ones, often planting too many, too close together. A typical carrot variety has,maybe 400 in a packet. At 50mm centres, that's 20 metres of carrots, 10 x2 metre rows of continuous carrot!

Rather than leave it to chance, I rarely use seed older than last season. May be extravagant, but considering the cost of failure to exceed the cost of seed.
Some varieties may be used to produce plants for donation or sale. My target each year is to grow sufficient for sale to clear the entire cost of inputs for a season. 4 year old tomato seed is still good for producing plants, generally worth 75p-£1 each at the boot sale, the weeks after mine are safely planted out.Curcubits ,the same. Runner beans, similarly box of 20 -£4, grown in any old compost/soil mix.
Other, brassica types are grown as microgreens for home consumption, mixed varieties, 'murdered' with scissors at the 4 leaf stage, from now until Spring
The ' sweepings' from the seed boxes are added to the wild bird feeders , nothing wasted. No guilt involved, nice clean start for when the catalogues arrive. Now off we go!
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saddad

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2019, 15:48:56 »
Don't get me started on looking at seed catalogues.... not until after Christmas at least...  :BangHead:

newspud9

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2019, 20:19:43 »
Thanks for all the helpful comments.  I think I'll presow as many of the older seeds as I can rather than sowing later/direct into the plot.  All the advice much appreciated

Vinlander

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2019, 20:08:00 »
There are some that are definitely more difficult as slightly older seeds than others.  Parsnips are almost always germinating sparsely if at all a year on,  peppers and onions are getting a bit tricky after two or three years.  You should get 4 years from a fresh packet of lettuce and brassica seeds.  Beans and peas also squashes and pumpkins are 5 or 6 years, tomatoes up to ten years.  The problem is that you do not know how old the seed was already when it was packed.  And that is the rub. 

Very good advice - I offer one trick and one quibble.

Old parsnip seeds germinate much better sown on the surface of the soil - if you look at them it's obvious they have NOT evolved to drop into cracks like round seeds or drop like darts - eg. salsify. Very few will ever get under the surface and they like it that way. Brand new seeds do have enough oomph to push up out of a drill. 1 or 2 year old seeds are viable but aren't up to breaking out. But they still won't do more than 2 years even on the surface.

Your own saved beans and peas will last 5 or 6 years but the ones you buy never do. The hint is what they look like - some of your own seed will have holes in - most of them will still germinate OK, but bought seed never has holes - that's because the seedsmen traditionally keep them a year, maybe 2 and then chuck away the damaged ones. We now know that a day in the freezer is enough to stop those holes appearing - but old habits die hard and so far I've no evidence that the seedsmen have changed theirs.

Cheers.
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Jeannine

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2020, 17:41:53 »
Thanks for all the helpful comments.  I think I'll presow as many of the older seeds as I can rather than sowing later/direct into the plot.  All the advice much appreciated

Saddad, I got a seed cataloges this year that topped anything I have seen before It was from Baker Creek in the US, It is an inch thick and for me is too heavy to hold up,450 pages. It is something to see.
When God blesses you with a multitude of seeds double  the blessing by sharing your  seeds with other folks.

saddad

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2020, 08:21:41 »
That would be some wonderful reading time Jeannine.....

Jeannine

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2020, 05:46:41 »
YEP THIS IS IT
When God blesses you with a multitude of seeds double  the blessing by sharing your  seeds with other folks.

JanG

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2020, 17:46:08 »
Baker Creek is great to look at online. Great selection and I like the reviews of customers. Always interesting to see what experiences people have had with each variety. But lucky you to be able to get the paper catalogue!

I rather like testing germination of all but the tiniest oldish seed by putting it on damp kitchen roll paper and then in a plastic bag or box. It's easy to write the type of the seed and date on the paper, fold the paper round the seed and put it in the box or bag along with several others. It's then quite exciting to inspect once a day and see what might have germinated!
This works specially well perhaps if you then sow into modules.

Jeannine

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Re: Seeds - best before dates
« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2020, 18:49:09 »
Jst while on the topic of ols sees and someone brought up parsnips on the soil surface. I have had parsnip plants go to seed and have collected some, but 2 or 3 years ago I didn't, they self sowed, I had lots of plants.Just a thought
When God blesses you with a multitude of seeds double  the blessing by sharing your  seeds with other folks.

 

anything