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Everything You Need To Know About Seeds – Part 1

February 7, 2012

In this 4 part series, I will be covering everything you need to know about seeds.  From where to get seeds, how to start seeds, some equipment that you need and how to care for your new seeds and seedlings.  I’m not an expert on seeds and have only saved a few of my more favorite varieties or producers for future plantings.

This series will offer a new short article with links to other sites or videos to help you on your way over the next 4 weeks.  There will be one new article each week so come back to read the entire series.

Where to get seeds – Part 1

If you are new to gardening or an experienced gardener, saving your seeds each season can be a rewarding experience.  There are hundreds of seed swap sites and seed catalogs available online or in print, you just have to find them.  I have collected a number of subscriptions (free) from many of the major seed catalogs as well as a few obscure ones that may be hard to find online or they simply offer such a specific niche of seeds, many people just gloss over them in the search engines.  Keep in mind that there is no “right” way to garden so be open to new ways or methods offered to you.

Seed viability

Since seeds can remain viable for many years, the longer seeds are stored, the less of a chance they will germinate.  Even in the best growing situations.  Not only do you need to keep your seeds dry, they must also stay at a fairly cool, consistent temperature to last until you are ready to plant them.  I’m not going to detail out the exact storage conditions needed for each type of seed because that would make this 4 part series into a 20 part series.  I use a simple rule of thumb when storing seeds:

1.  Keep them dry

2.  Airtight containers are best

3.  Keep them cool

I recently read a long article on proper seed storage techniques but I won’t bore you with the details.  The article went into great (and I mean GREAT!) detail on which containers were the best, which containers were airtight, ratings on how much air or moisture penetrated the containers, etc.  If you are planning on storing your seeds for only a year or two, then there is little point in buying the most airtight containers available.  Simply storing the seeds in a seal-able glass jar (think Mason jars) is probably enough to keep them dry.

Testing seed viability

I use a simple method for testing my seeds to see if they are still worth keeping or planting.  If my seeds are over a year old, I typically sprinkle 10 seeds (exactly) onto a moist paper towel.  Cover them with another moist paper towel and then place them in a plastic bag.  After 7 to 10 days in a warm location I check to see how many seeds have actually sprouted.  I then multiply that number by 10 to get a rough percentage.

Clearing out the old

  • Make a list of seed types and categorize them by type of fruit, flower or vegetable
  • Separate the seeds that you don’t plan on using and then….
  • Donate the unwanted seeds.  There are probably a few communitygardens (especially if you are in a city), garden clubs, school & church garden programs that would take your seeds.  Be sure to label them accurately if you plan on donating them.
  • Online or local seed swaps can be useful in taking your old seeds.  The benefits of seed swaps comes in getting new varieties for your own garden.  The National Gardening Association has an online seed swap.
  • National Seed Swap Day is the last Saturday of January (we just missed it….).  This would be the perfect day to gather friends and family to swap seeds.  It may take a little effort but you can use your friends and family to help spread the word.  I’ve seen these seed swaps organized in the local supermarket parking lot.  Just make sure to ask permission first from the property owners.

Where to find Seed Catalogs

I was planning on providing a long list of seed catalogs and websites but there are just too many out there to choose from and since many of them were unfamiliar, I have chosen to simply list the ones that I receive and use the most.  If you want more information there is a really good (and detailed) blog from 2009 on the Vegetablegardener.com.

That just about does it for this first part of the series.  There is so much to say about saving and swapping seeds but if I gave you everything there was to know about the subject, there would be little thrill in finding a great article or website on your own.  Use your creativity in the search engines to find just the right phrase and you will be surprised at every turn.  The next post in this series will be next week so please come back for more.

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by thehomevegetablegardener

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