With the new season rapidly approaching, and seed raising just a few weeks from commencing with the most sensitive peppers and chillies being the first seeds to be immersed in warm damp soil, I thought I’d better sort things out. I started by browsing seed catalogues and online seed lists to see what was new and what I wanted to grow, but then realised as much fun as this was, it was the last thing I needed to do.
I needed to sort out my seeds first. And I have to say they were a mess. They were spread out over three boxes, a seed tin and a bucket rescued from the garden shed during The Great Mouse Attack. There were flower seeds mixed in with the veggie seeds as my often misguided intentions to have a beautiful flower garden alongside my verdant vegetable patch never really gets off the ground – or more precisely into the ground.
It was a lot simpler as a newbie gardener; all I had to do was decide what I wanted and then go out and buy the seeds. Easy. These days I have loads of seeds and don’t actually need to buy many at all. However the hoard I have amassed is fraught with problems. Some seeds are old. But how old is too old. I have noticed that seed companies often change their packaging and this is a good indication that if you have two or more incarnations of packaging from one company then it is a safe bet that one of them is too old.
Seeds all have different viability lifespans, and it also depends on how well they have been stored. I know mine haven’t been stored properly as I investigated this the first time I discovered that my newbie purchased seeds don’t last forever – despite there being 1000 seeds in a lettuce packet. I thought it was great value for money until I realised you never actually get to use all 1000 before they go ‘off’. Armed with knowledge, I responded with inaction. I was always so excited to get things growing that I always thought I’d pack them away properly later. I never did. I’m the same with the hose and ashamed to admit – with a lot of my tools.
So now I have to figure out how long each group is expected to last, possibly even to a germination viability test with tissue and sandwich bags. At least it is some kind of growing for this spring ready gardener. Well almost spring ready. I’m not sure I have time for all of this, as I still have to do the strawberries and clear about 3 more beds and then there are the onions – if they ever grow big enough to go out.
Alongside the old and aging seeds is a collection of seeds with ambiguous labels like ‘grey pumpkin’ or ‘good little chilli’ with no hint or clue as to how old they are or where they came from. I should know better. I have a terrible memory – always have and always will. I need to change my ways.
With 210 packets to sort through (not including the flowers – that have just been put aside for now) I wasn’t entirely sure where to start. So I separated the seeds into the different bed groups that they will go into, which is also handily my crop rotation system – all beds move right at the end of each season. And with the seeds all together, like with like, I can go through and keep only the freshest of each variety with more than one packet – including the dodgy hand written ones. If I find time is against me I can do the groups in order of when I will need to sow them. Starting with the peppers and chillies.
The problem is I hate waste. I can almost reconcile myself to the fact the old ones are no good and not worth the space to keep them, but it is the ones that I grew for a season and didn’t really get on with them. I can’t just chuck them out, knowing they are still good. While worth a few cents each as a seed, the potential value as a harvestable crop causes me pain – even if we don’t like them. Maybe I’ll give them away.
I have my work cut out for me, sorting and testing and organising. Then and only then can I indulge in the luxury of buying new and exciting seeds.
Come again soon – I need to get a wiggle on as the growing season is nearly upon us.
Sarah the Gardener : o )