Out With the Old

I do like to be thrifty, so I save the seed that I don't use one year and use it the next year, or the year after that. Some seed will survive that treatment, and finally germinate, but it will never spring up with enthusiasm and vigour like fresh seed will. Two weeks ago I planted out a bunch of old seed, and some cornflower seed that I bought this last autumn. The results are in. As you can see, I will have a wonderful crop of cornflowers soon, and not so much broccoli. The children will be pleased. Yesterday, the first buttercrunch lettuce seed finally raised its old and tired little head. It is up, but it doesn't really want to be. I can tell it just wants to go back to bed. I know how it feels. The cornflowers, on the other hand, are like peppy and energetic toddlers, jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn, and rampaging about full of vim and vigour.

The moral is, use new seed. This is a marvellous excuse to order more seed, so there is the silver lining. Seed catalogues, mmm...

Storing seed is of course, something that does need to happen, although preferably for not more than a year. Seeds are best stored in a cool, dark, dry place. I store mine in a basket on a high shelf in my bedroom, which is in the southern corner of my southern hemisphere house. It is the coolest room in the house and never by chance gets the slightest ray of sunshine.

Many of my seeds are collected in the garden in the autumn, and I throw them into a paper bag and into the basket. If I am lucky, I will label it.. the gold standard would be after six weeks or so, when the seed is good and dry, to re-package it in an airtight container - a jar or ziploc bag, which will help it to keep for longer. I mostly do not do this.

As a lazy gardener, often I save seed by just letting the plants seed all over the garden, and then in the spring, moving the plants to where I want them as they pop up as ten thousand tiny seedlings. This does actually create more work than saving seed properly in the first place, but is kind of fun. Right now I have lots of tiny lettuces popping up all over, a million tiny viola plants, seven million baby warrigul greens and about the same number of calendula plants. I am thinking of starting my own plant nursery.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, looking at seed websites. Such a chore.

Oh, and remember to buy local seed. There is almost always a small local seed company. They will be breeding plants for local conditions. The other place you can find local seed and seedlings is in the gardens of your neighbours. Ask! Gardeners generally love to share.


Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Top work. Yup, raising seedlings here too. Tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, melons, capsicum and maybe some other stuff I've forgotten about. :-)! Cornflowers are very lovely to look at, and whilst I usually get blue ones, other colours pop up in the garden too. They are like poppies and self seed prolifically. Lazy is most certainly in fashion - the plants take very little work, but the infrastructure is another story - and I too enjoy the bounty of prolific self seeders like mustard greens and carrots. Far out, those plants are everywhere. My view on that story is that nature knows her own business well enough and I shouldn't get involved!

Just for your interest, in the past few years I've been mildly fermenting the seeds for about three days (hopefully only three days anyway), then drying them on paper before storing them and the germination rate is pretty good. Your method works well too especially storing them in paper bags which is a great idea.

jj said…
Some terrific advice here, thank you! I save seed forever as I hate to waste all that potential, so I do share lots of seed I have no chance of ever planting in a number of lifetimes ;)
Jo said…
Chris, I tried saving tomato seed last year for the first time using the 'soak 3 days then dry on paper towel' method. I am about to plant them out and hoping it goes well!

jj, yes to the number of lifetimes thing!
Treaders said…
I always get gung ho when seeding time comes around. They say here not to plant out until after the St. Glace (the last frost - usually early May). I always tend to think I know better than Mother Nature so never wait - and usually Mother Nature is right. Oh and for saving seeds, I remember Jamie Oliver saying to use old pill/vitamin bottles. Just small enough to store easily. Anna
Jo said…
Anna, vitamin/pill bottles - brilliant! Nice and light, won't kill me if they drop on my head when lifting my seed basket down. Thank you! And yes, so hard to wait to get those seeds out in the spring. But being a lazy gardener helps!

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