OK! I will be starting some of my old seeds, and even some that my mom had, over 20 years old. Let's be creative...no holds barred!
I will be starting tomatoes, beans, peas, annuals, perennials and some shrubs and trees. I suppose these old seeds might be worth something after all. I was going to toss them, when Dr. Carolyn said she germinated 20 year old tomato seeds, WOW!
Ok, I know everyone is busy on getting their current things into production, but if you can make a small portion for some of those leftovers...let's make an experiment, OK?
I am starting some today. I will be back to tell you which ones. Let's keep notes,( not my strong suit), as to our methods. When started, covered or not, scarify, stratify, bottom heat, W/S, and what year the seeds, as well as what company, or source, if it is on the label....all are welcome.
Old seeds...who has any, and who is in?
OK! I will be starting some of my old seeds, and even some that my mom had, over 20 years old. Let's be creative...no holds barred!
That is exciting! Now all can share in your fun! Thanks.
Ok here is what I have sowed so far: these were sown 2/27
Tomato 'Aunt Ruby's German' 2003 Pinetree Seeds
Tomato 'Homestead' 1987 Ferry Morse (Mom's)
Tomato 'Super Beefsteak' 1991 Burpee
Tomato 'Sub-Artic Plenty' 1990 Gurney's
Oxypetalum 'Blue Cheer' 1997 Burpee
Digitalis 'Foxy' 1992 Pinetree
I have also already sown some peas directly into the raised beds last week, and the dates are on the labels. I did not write them down, so I will have to go out in the mud to make note of them. I also am growing current years peas, side by side to note the differences in germination.
A lot more to follow...I will have to wintersow a lot, as I have little space indoors. I will reserve just what I need to use bottom heat. I may have a secondary site, on the back porch if they require bottom heat, but cool growing conditions.
I remember reading Dr. Carolyn saying she used some "tricks" (I think that was the word) to germinate old tomato seeds. Does anyone know what those "tricks" are?
I googled "germinating old seeds" and came across this post on the Seed Savers Exchange forum. Hopefully I am not doing anything unethical by copying and pasting it. The technique was also used in successfully germinating 20 year old tomato seeds, even though the poster was talking about bean seeds.
"For old beans, I have had good luck using a "nitrate soak" method. I first boil & then cool some water, to sterilize it. Add 1 teaspoon of a high-nitrate fertilizer (such as seaweed emulsion) per gallon of water; if you have any doubts about the sterility of the fertilizer (such as manure tea) boil it along with the water.
"Then plant the beans in a sterile soil-less medium, either seed starter or plug mix. I usually use peat strips for this purpose. Place the planted pots/strips in a leak-proof plastic flat, and add enough of the solution to soak them completely. Let soak overnight, then carefully pour off any excess solution. Place the flat on a heat mat, or where the temperature will be close to 80 F. degrees. Do not cover, since the dead seeds will rot, and if enclosed, mold/mildew can spread to other pots. If any further watering is required, use plain water.
"Nitrogen stimulates bean germination, so this method can be highly effective. I had some half-dead bean seed, which initially (without the nitrogen) had zero germination out of 50 seeds. When attempted again with the same seed, one year later & using the nitrate solution, the germination was better than 60%."
Just thought I would pass that on; I have not tried it.
I found some old seeds when I went through my mother's house after she died...I have some coleus, forget me nots, and marigolds. Nothing special, aside from sentimental value. They appear to be from the 70's.
OK, Celene....from the posts that I have read, if you use just use a few seeds at a time, if one thing doesn't work, you can try another. (Especially if they are of sentiment to you. I have sown some from my mom's collection as well.)
If you all check out the tomato forum and look for Dr. Carolyn's post about how she germinated her old tomato seeds, that might give us some "tricks" to try, if necessary. I guess the first thing would be to section off the seeds into different piles, or in the case for just a few seeds, count them, if they are large enough. Some seeds are like dust, so do what you can not to use them all in one try, if possible. Then make notes about the seeds. The kind, the date on pkg, if any, then the source, if known, and then write down what you did to each batch. Maybe try just the first batch and then give it a month. if they do not germinate, don't throw them away quite yet. Some seeds are very slow to germinate, even if fresh. (I might be getting ahead of myself..)
Any time, Dr. C.,please feel free to correct any errors I have in the scientific method. (She is a microbiologist with a passion for tomatoes.)
Also, look up Norman Deno's germination techniques, as well as Trudi's Davidoff's Winter Sowing forum, as her methods might be usefull for slow to germinate seeds as well as many perennials, trees and shrubs. She also has a website for even more lists, but don't get lost, or you may lose a day or two!
What I will do is, winter sow some of each, refrigerate some for a month, after putting them in a damp paper towel, or vermiculite. I will make a label onto the ziplock bag beforehand so I will know what seeds went where. I suppose it is best to check them after two weeks, but to not open the bag, just look through it for some green. I have not yet done this before, so anyone with more experience, please feel free to share your methods and experiences with doing this. As far as the winter sowing there is loads of info out there, but in the case of just a small amount of seeds, maybe small dixie cups or plastic cups sealed in a ziplock bag, where it won't be blown away. Anyone who has thoughts on this, again, please help me out on this one. OK, you get the idea. So, ready...set....GO!
Well, you are all off to a good start! "Let the games begin!"
I have a bunch of old seeds I was thinking about trying (also after reading about the 20 year old tomato seeds!) so I am game too :) Will have to go through them a bit & see which ones to try.
Just can't bring myself to throw them out!
I will be interested in seeing everyone's results! I still have some of my Mom's old seeds. I was just a kid...the oldest are from 1972, lol.
This post came too late for me - I cleaned house and tossed out anything older that 2005. Some of the things I have set aside to throw away in the flower border just in case - I haven't done that yet, but it was flower seed, not vegies.
The older seed I've got, I decided not to viability test first - seems like a waste of seed. I thought I'd just sow heavy into a pot, and that would be the viability test. My storage area is cool and dry, but maybe not as dark as it should have been. I had some cucumber seed that didn't sprout last year, they were only 2-3? years old.
2005, well, that qualifies...they are five years old, OK. All's fair! I guess I should have said any at least 5 years old...are you in? It doesn't matter if they are veggies or flowers, or whatever anyone has. (Equal opportunity-seeds!)
Okay...I have coleus sprouts. Not many, considering I planted a whole packet of seed, but I have perhaps half a dozen sprouts. I did not use the Deno method; I started them in Jiffy mix with bottom heat in a flat with a domed lid. The marigolds look like they'll sprout, I can see green popping through the soil. The forget-me-nots want colder temperatures to sprout, so they're winter sown, and the rest of the packet is sown in a pot in my cold room (50-ish degrees all winter). I'm so lame, I cried when I saw the coleus sprouts. It's so typical of my parents, to never throw anything away, and they'd be so happy I found these and grew them out.
Yes, I'm in. In fact, I am depending on those old seeds. I just can't afford to buy fresh packets of everything every year. Because of the cucumbers not sprouting last year, I did buy fresh seed for key garden plants. However, I don't think company and variety is as important as storage conditions. The most questionable seeds I saved were allium family - they have a notoriously short storage life.
Anybody know a good, not terribly expensive source for heat mats?
RE: Heating (Propagation) Mat
I took a plant propagation class. The teacher gave us a plan to build a propagator box. The most expensive item on the materials list was a 36' soil heating cable with thermostat, estimated price $34.95. He didn't list a source, but he said all the materials could be found in the garage/shop scrap pile, Walmart, Hardware Store, or local nursery. I think he might have said he got the cable and plant trays at the local nursery. He glued scrap wood blocks to a Durarock sheet and looped the heating cable around them. The box was sized to hold 4 standard plant trays, the wooden blocks also kept the trays from sitting directly on the cable. This was just to sprout them - as soon as they sprouted, you were supposed to move them to a cold frame or light table.
A local mail-order seed company here sells soil heating cable. They have 6' 24 watt, heats 1&1/2sqft for $28.25 and 48 ft, 168 watt, heats 12 sqft, for $46.45. There website is
but that is just to print the order form or get their phone number - you can't order online.
has a 9" x 19" 17 watt "seedling heat mat" for $29.95
Great info, thanks! So if I have a heat mat, it doesn't matter that the basement is only 65 degrees?
I love experiments! I think I've decided to do 12 containers. Going to choose my 12 now :)
The mat from Johnny's said "raises temperature 20 degrees above ambient", so I would say 60-65 degrees would be ideal.
RE Old Tomato Seed: I have 11 varieties, which 5 more than I have space for in the garden. If anybody is really jazzed about this "old seed" experiment, I have the following varieties from Johnny's Selected Seeds: Celebrity '08, Yellow Pear '06, Pruden's Purple '05, Matt's Wild Cherry '05; and "Burrell's Special", a locally adapted variety from a local company, '05.
Send me a D-mail if you are interested. There isn't a lot of seeds left in each packet, it will have to be first come first serve. I don't want to list on the regular seed swap because the seed are old and questionable.
Wow! It's been quite a while since I have been in my 'old seed' stash! How can I choose just 12?
Canna indica 2003
Clematis (Haven't decided which one yet, may do a mix)2003
Daylily Crosses 2003
Hyacinth Bean Vine White 2003
Lychnis alba 2003
Wild Orange Columbine from Canada 2003
Yellow Blazing Star 2003
Yellow Mexican Bird of Paradise 2003
Mina Lobata (Spanish Flag) 2004
Azalea 'Pink Ruffles' 2005
Unknown large bush forming habit flowers collected from my parents house 2005 - Really hoping these grow! :)
I tried to select some that I would not think will germinate & others that I am pretty confident will germinate. Will see what happens :)
Ants...you can do as many as you want to...there are no limits of 12 kinds.
Ky...I am using old heating pads, wrapped in 2 towels. I checked the soil temp as it was 75 degrees. Before it was on low and some old alyssum sprouted in 2 weeks. Now it is under a thicker plastic tray, so I set the temp to medium.
I made some mistakes on that batch as I opened it up, I should have waited for at least one set of true leaves, so many of them got cold and withered, as well some may have dried out. So now, to keep it on the heat and wrapped in my plastic bag until at least on set of true leave. (It was some old purple alyssum seeds, which are not as vigorous the white ones - but they were from 1997!) There are still more coming, though....
So I am learning with all of you. This should not only be fun, but many of us cannot afford to go out and buy lots of new seeds, if we have a lot of old ones that might just be wonderful flowers and veggies!
Ok, I got mine planted today :) I limited myself to 12 because I am growing more seeds this year than I ever have before & am running out of room & time.
I will be starting more old seed as I get to them I will let you all know how things go.
I haven't done anything special with any of these seeds. Just sowing them in potting soil, covering with plastic & setting them outside.
I just found this and I am in. I have started some old salvia greggii collected in 1997.
I have 3 batches. 1. Direct sown on surface. 2. Soaked for 24 hours in a fertilizer/peroxide solution. 3. Scarified and soaked in fertilizer/peroxide solution. So far nothing has sprouted but all look good and are not rotting.
Sorry, got sidetracked. Thanks for posting, Miss S. Keep us posted on your results.
Celene, congrats on your seedlings! :) I'm still waiting for mine...
Pollen...do you have any seeds left? I cannot believe that I am asking this, as I have so many seeds, but my husband really likes the Celebrity tomato, and I usually grow one for him. If you have a few seeds, that would be great. I have a lot I could send you as well. You have a D-mail..
All of the tomatoes are up! I forgot to count the seeds that were sown, so I do not have an exact germination percentage record...but all those old seeds are up! I will count the seeds next time, only the ones large enough to count. I suppose we could all do pre-sprouting by the Deno method, which is to put seeds in a damp paper towel, then place in a ziplock bag and check it after a week or so, depending on the type of seed. That would certainly give more credence to the experiment, though maybe not everyone has the extra time for this. The seeds can be planted after germination, so they wouldn't be wasted. Something to think about...I have so many that probably will be doing some of those as well as W/S'ing though technically, it will be spring...but sowing outside, as I don't have enough room in the house and no GH. I need to get these seeds going. I have been doing a little every day, that I am home, that is.
I think, whatever you want to do is OK with me...
So, how is everyone doing? The snow has melted here but the ground is still saturated from all the rain and snow, so it is too muddy to work in right now.
32 years ago I bought an "emergency garden" of seeds from Howard Ruff. They are packed in sealed cans in nitrogen and were "out of date" in 1982. About 1985 I stuck an aluminum foil wrapped package of watermelon seeds in the box. No protection for the watermelon seeds except for the aluminum foil.
10 days ago I planted 6 of the melon seeds and six of the climbing cherry tomatoes from a can I unsealed. I picked the tomatoes because if they were still good I wouldn't feel bad about opening the seal on the can...I am not fond of cherry tomatoes...
Today, three of one of the sets has germinated and are pushing up plants. I think its the tomatoes because melons usually push up with the seed still over the top like a hat and these didnt do that. Yes, I should have remembered which was which, but at 74 my brain cells dont germinate like they used to. Besides, I think that I will recognize the fruits when they come on. The watermelons are bigger than the cherry tomatoes...for a start...#8-)
But which ever it is, 50% germination is pretty good for 25 to 30 years. The emergency garden seeds were only supposed to be good for 5 years.
JimIsbell, This is great that you have viable seeds that have lasted so very long. I believe that you are going to set the record in this forum. I believe that these are your tomatoes that your palate will frown upon. The Melons will be much larger and look somewhat like a sunflower seed sprouting. Your brain cells seem, (but I may be wrong) much more viable than the mere 50% of your tomato seeds. Alas, you will also know which plant is which when you taste its fruit, one you will enjoy the other, oh well... My hat is off to you.
You all are incredible!!!
Im all for using old seeds, I havent gone beyond about six years though....
Best of luck...something I thought Id share with my germination of old seeds--have had them 2-5yrs old---lettuces and carrots would not germinate. In fact I buy them every year because they seem to not last. Peas I have planted 6 yrs old and had decent germination.Six year old butternut squash had great germination. I wonder if the size of the seed makes a difference as the old seeds I have used have been mainly lg ones--beans, peas, squash, cukes.......come to think of it though, I have had petunia seeds sprout that were several years old....Hmmm...
Well, it seems I have been having very good luck with the old seeds...but not necessarily with (some) new seeds....I just opened an evelope of Impatiens Mosaic, from Park Seeds...there were NO seeds in there! NONE! I will send them an email tonight as they have already received more than one order from me this season. I thought, well, maybe they are very small seeds...not even with a microscope..well, I don't actually have one of those, but maybe I should...
be back later...
This is a partial list as in the beginning I did not specify how many seeds I had sowed. It is easy to count tomato seeds and anything larger as well. The peas outside in the garden are just beginning to show, so I don't have a count on them yet, and now, more storms are on the way.
Gurney Seeds - Sub-Artic Plenty 1990 sowed 2/27 moved to cell pack 3/11, then 4" 3/28
Super Beefsteak - Burpee 1991 " "
Aunt Ruby's German Green - Pinetree Seeds 2003 " "
I have 4 Abutilons from an old pack, but there was no date on it, but I have never sown it before and had the packet for a few years. I may have tried to direct sow as there were only a few seeds in there, and again, bad record keeping. I had read a book buy a famous garden writer who herself had sown seeds and did not keep records, and she told us that she would try to do better and stressed the importantance of doing so. How else will we know what to expect. the fact is that if you keep the record of the weather for every single day, it will be different next year, but if you have an unseasonbly cold winter or hot summer, or anything else out of the norm, it will be there, if you keep a daily score sheet. I admit, record-keeping is my downfall, or lack thereof, so don't do as I do.....well, you know the "rest of the story"....
Lets keep in contact and see what old seeds will come to life!
Wow! I just potted up 2 - 6-packs of Homestead tomatoes, from....1987!!!