Am I special or did seed catalogs arrive especially early this year? Some even arrived before Christmas! Habit has me doing inventory now, and getting ready to order the last week of January to be sure I get the varieties I want. Seed catalogs can be dangerously seductive, whether you are a seasoned gardener or not. Here are some tips for putting the reins on “seed bingeing”, and ordering only what you really need.
The first task is to do a seed inventory. Pull out your boxes of seeds and look over what you’ve got. Some will be viable for planting, and some will not. This depends on 2 things: 1) the way you stored your seeds, and 2) how old the seed is. Seeds are dormant, but are truly alive, and need to be stored in conditions which keep them dormant. Ideal storage conditions are dark, cool (around 40-45 degrees, and dry (25-35% humidity). The best place in my house is the cellar, in a dark cabinet.
In a perfect world, I’d pack all my seeds into airtight plastic vials or glass jars, but as you can see I didn’t get around to it this year! To help me decide which seeds are still viable, I refer to a seed viability chart. Here is a link to a helpful one: Seed Viability Chart
In the ideal storage conditions mentioned above, the seeds will be viable for the specified # of years. Since my conditions are less than ideal, (stored in paper envelopes at slightly higher temps), I subtract a year. These culled seeds go to the compost pile. A home gardener might not have to be so strict, and can just over-plant to compensate for older, poorly germinating seed.
To be sure about the viability of your particular seeds, do a seed germination test! Its a fun and easy way to do much more exact way of determining viability. The video shows you how.
The second task is to make a list of seeds you need. Considerations for me are: 1) what do I want to grow in my backyard garden, 2) what do my clients want me to grow for them? I know from experience that I tend to need small quantities of most seeds. Then I dive into the seed catalogs. I like to support companies that make a strong effort to provide GMO-free and organically grown seed, preferably based in the same climate zone I grow in (zone 5).
By doing a little work before ordering, I can avoid going over budget on seeds, and that’s always a good thing.
What are you ordering this year?