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I think the prevailing thoughts on old seeds is that you have nothing to lose by giving them a try. I planted several year old tomato seeds and am having great germination on them. Of course, Celene is correct. There are some types of seeds that don't hold over well.
Yes, it's always worth a try if the option is to trash the seeds.
I suspect that some hard to sprout things, like columbine, might not do that well. When sown fresh, right from the plant, they germinate like crazy.
I sowed 3 jugs of snapdragons this year. Those from the two fresher packs have sprouted, the one from the older pack has not. I'm still holding out hope of a few sprouts but nothing was lost by trying.
If I have older seeds, I see if they need cold stratification like the columbines, and if not, I try GA-3 and use the Deno method. I had 30 year old seed germinate recently, they were foundlings from my packrat mother.
I think the answer is yes. I had a vintage packet of dill and a new packet. I said it was early enough, I tried the vintage one first. Oddly, out of all the different types of seeds I planted, the old dill seed sprouted first. That empowered me so I've been trying other old ones with good success. Let us know how they do?
Here's a seed viability chart--the veggies are on the top; flowers next; and herbs last. Note that these are noted as "under ideal storage conditions."
I agree that with WS, there is nothing to be lost by trying!
Thanks for that link. Interesting info but was surprised at the herb info
Quoting: Most of the popular Herbs...Don't expect much better than one year of storage longevity. Even then, the most you can hope for would be something less than 50% germination...at best.
after the good luck I had with the dill. I am trying some other vintage herb seeds. The thyme has not sprouted yet. The sweet marjoram was a year old and sprouted well. Now, I am really curious... thanks.
FYI my experience seems to indicate that marigold seeds are good for three years but no longer. I think tomato seeds are good indefinitely. I remember hearing somewhere that if there were a massive atomic explosion one of the survivals would be tomatoes.
I also decided to challenge the dictum that you plant "new" corn seeds every year. The germination rate on last year's seeds might not have been quite as good, but still very satisfactory. (I have to start my corn indoors as the varmints of various kinds seem to REALLY inhibit the germination rate.)
Was just reading to test to see if your old seeds are still viable, put them in a glass of water. The ones that are still viable will sink to the bottom and those that aren't will float to the top, and then you can dip up the ones floating to the top and throw out, then drain the water off the ones that ended up on the bottom and you should dry them off and go ahead and plant right away. This method seems easier and faster than trying to keep them wet in a paper towel or coffee filter inside a ziplock bag to see if they will sprout.
I use the glass of water method all the time & not just with old seeds, it's a great way to separate seed from chaff too. Some of the seeds I WS'ed this year were old (nigella, Chinese lantern) I had saved the pretty pods years ago but never did anything with them. Then I realized they were full of seeds, so I figured why not? It's all an experiment anyway!
Last evening I grabbed my book Plant Propagation by Alan Toogood endorsed by AHS and I saw where they suggest if you have any old seed that you are not sure are still good, to put the seed in a glass ot water and the ones that are still viable will sink to the bottom of the glass and those that aren't will float to the top. I know I found some the other day that I'd put in an envelope and forgot and it also says that the ones that are viable, you dry off and plant right away. Anybody ever heard of this?
Quoting:There is a difference between 'wet' seed & 'dry' seed. (Tropical seeds, especially fruits, are a separate category entirely, and not covered in the following comments)
Wet seed is mature and harvested when it is still in a moist environment eg Chillies, tomatoes, pumpkins, melons etc. These seeds can be safely graded by the float test, before they have started to dry out (tomatoes & cucumbers are an exception ~ they need to be fermented for 2~3 days first). In float testing, all that sinks will be viable, any that floats may be viable, and the floaters will include any that aren't.
Dry seed is that which is harvested when in a dry state ~ almost all herbs & flowers, beans, peas, Cabbage family, grains, lettuce, celery etc. Testing dry seed by the float method is extremely unreliable and of itself, likely to damage seed.
I found the above quote from a 2008 DG thread on Seed Germination and water-testing in particular. The quotation is part a longer posting by SeedyMaz--to see it, scroll down to the last entry in the thread. Very interesting and informative.
Thanks for that link, CapeCod - good info there. My thinking is that if the seeds sink, they are likely to be viable & if they float, they're not. There may be exceptions to that of course, but it works for me! I've also successfully grown tomato seeds that I've saved without fermenting (not WS though, never tried WS'ing toms - maybe this year).
This is a very encouraging thread to me as I bought soooo many seeds this past fall and didn't get as many WSed as I'd hoped. I was bummed they'd not be good to sow next year, but this thread has given me new hope! I've had the best luck with daisies and echies my first WS season - am bummed no columbine though I understand they germinate later than others?