Winter is all about the potential, and seeds are a garden’s potential. I love perusing seed catalogs and seed racks this time of year looking for the new, unusual, heirloom and exotic flower, vegetable and herb seeds. But before we go buying tons of seeds to grow in our gardens this year, it’s good to assess our leftover seeds, to see if they’re still viable and to decide what plants we want to grow from seed versus buying as transplants.
Putting Seeds to the Test
Many gardeners often have leftover seeds from year to year. Many of these can be used this year, but it’s best to do a seed germination test first to see if they still are viable. Some vegetables, such as onions and leeks, don’t store well, while others such as tomatoes can be viable for many years. Take 10 seeds from the packet, wrap them in a moist paper towel and place the paper towel in a clear plastic bag in a warm place out of direct sunlight. VELCRO® Brand PRESS-LOK® Bags make good germination chambers for seeds. In about 1 week, count how many seeds have germinated and calculate your germination percentage.
If it’s less than 80%, buy new seeds. If it’s just at 80%, sow those seeds a little thicker than normal to make sure you have enough seedlings to transplant.
Seeds vs Transplants
While starting plants from seed is fun, it does require a seed starting setup with lights, pots, potting soil, heating mats and a warm room. Think about the number of plants you’ll need. If you need just a few tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash and cucumbers, consider buying them as transplants. If you need large numbers of flowers, herbs and vegetables, such as basil, marigolds and lettuce, grow them from seed started indoors.
Some veggies, such as carrots, beets and radishes, are best directly sown in the ground in spring, while long season crops, like tomatoes and eggplant, should be started from seed indoors to get a jump on the season.
It’s flower show season across America. I’ll be speaking at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle on February 10 and 11th and the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show on February 25th. Stop by if you’re in the area and say hi…. and get a free VELCRO® Brand Plant Ties giveaway if you attend my talk!