How can one resist the bright, big and beautiful blooms displayed in the seed catalogues? Each year, I succumb to temptation and order the seeds for the giant pumpkins, tomatoes for every purpose and family member’s preference, along with at least five new bean varieties. And each spring, my box of leftovers grows a bit bigger because I didn’t find time to put in that last crop of spinach in the fall and my neighbors insisted that I should really consider sparing the space for those zucchini and cucumbers.
So this year, it’s no more new packages until I am sure that the seeds I saved is insufficient to feed my family and color the flower beds. If you have made a similar resolution, here’s some hints to plan for planting, before adding to your current seed collection.
Conduct a simple germination test for leftover seeds. Moisten several paper towels and place ten seeds on the top sheet. Space them evenly. Cover with another piece of moist paper towel. Roll up the toweling and place in a plastic bag. Label and place in a warm place. Use the seed packet or garden catalogue listing to identify the typical germination timeframe and mark your calendar to check your test bags several days in advance of the date. Many seeds will germinate within 5 – 10 days using this method. Count the number of seeds with sprouts, multiply by 10 to calculate the germination rate.
If the germination rate is less than 50%, you may wish to consider ordering new seed or visit a public library with a seed sharing program. Sow seeds that germinate at rates greater than 50% more thickly than recommended for the type of plant, based on your calculated percentage. If seeds did not germinate at all, consider the manner in which the seed was stored and plan for alternate packaging or storage location for the future. Storage success is dependent on temperature and humidity. The Colorado State University Extension offers a good guide here: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07221.html
And if those seeds don’t germinate at all, have those seed catalogues handy and consider express shipping!