can’t touch this seeds

Jewelweed. Spotted touch-me-not. Orange Balsam It’s a plant known by many names, and, even if you don’t recognize any of them, you’ve probably popped one of its exploding seed pods. A favorite of hummingbirds and nature-lovers young and old, it’s a species with many stories to share. Listen in as the guys dive deep into the jewelweed patch, eating some seeds, trying to find the source of the “jewel” in jewelweed’s name, and getting to the bottom of the age-old claim that jewelweed is a cure for poison ivy.

Jewelweed. Spotted touch-me-not. Orange Balsam It’s a plant known by many names, and, even if you don’t recognize any of them, you’ve probably popped one of its exploding seed pods. A favorite of hummingbirds and nature-lovers young and old, it’s a species with many stories to share. Listen in as the guys dive deep into the jewelweed patch, eating some seeds, trying to find the source of the “jewel” in jewelweed’s name, and getting to the bottom of the age-old claim that jewelweed is a cure for poison ivy.

Seeds should be stored in cool, dry, dark conditions. Place the seeds in an airtight, watertight container such as a jar with a rubber seal (like a baby food jar or canning jar) or a zip lock bag inside a jar. To keep the seeds cool (ideally, below 50 degrees), some people store them in a jar in their refrigerator or freezer.

But this year, I decided to do a little research about how long seeds last. I was a little surprised to learn that seed viability varies considerably with the type of plant. Seed viability also will vary depending on whether the seeds are have been pretreated or pelletized. I was less surprised to learn that viability varies even under optimal storage conditions.

Each winter, I start thinking about what seeds I may want to plant in my garden for spring and summer. Before I get too far in my planning, I first rifle through the half-empty packets of seeds left over from the prior year (and in some cases, several years) and wonder if any of them are still viable. I usually shrug, toss the seeds in the ground, and wait to see what happens. If the seeds don’t germinate, then I buy some new ones. Obviously, this haphazard approach to planting is far from ideal because it can put me several weeks behind my intended planting schedule by the time I notice that the seeds haven’t germinated.

Seeds in good condition and stored properly will last at least one year and, depending on the plant, may last two to five years. I found a quite a few tables on the internet indicating the average shelf life of vegetable and flower seeds that are properly stored. Those sources are listed below. Here is a shorter version for a variety of vegetable seeds:

If you are uncertain about whether seeds will germinate, you can do an easy germination test. Count out a specific number of seeds, anywhere from ten to one hundred seeds. Moisten a paper towel or a coffee filter and place the seeds on it. Fold or roll up the moistened paper over the seeds, making sure that the seeds don’t touch each other, and put the paper inside a plastic bag in a warm place. Check the seeds after two or three days and then every day thereafter for a week or so. Spray the paper as need to maintain moisture. After the standard germination period has passed (as provided on the seed packet), count to see how many seeds have germinated and calculate the percentage of germination by dividing the number of seeds germinated by the number of seeds tested. Compare the germination percentage it to the germination rate (if there is one) on the seed packet label. If the seed germination rate is high, then the seeds are fine to plant. If the germination rate is low, you may want to purchase new seeds.

Some packets list minimum soil temperatures or the optimal temperature range for planting. Others indicate when to plant in terms of how many weeks before or after your area’s typical last spring frost date. You can buy an inexpensive soil thermometer at most garden or hardware stores. Basic models look like a meat thermometer for your oven, but with a different temperature scale. If you’re unsure about typical frost dates in your area, your extension agent can help with that, too.

GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.

Before planting your seeds, mix Pennington UltraGreen All Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10 into the prepared soil. Specially formulated with the right balance of essential nutrients, this plant food provides a healthy, strong foundation – leaving you with tasty vegetables.

The following garden vegetables, listed from earliest planting dates to latest, all do best when seeded directly into your spring garden. 1,2 Many of these seeds also yield second crops when planted in late summer, once soil temperatures cool down.

When possible, prepare your garden in fall, in case spring brings lots of rain and soggy soil. Working soil when it’s wet actually changes its structure and makes it less hospitable to seeds and plants. By preparing your garden early, you’re ready to plant as soon as soil dries out in spring. To know if it’s dry enough, grab a handful of soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles away when you open your hand, start planting. If it forms a clump, it needs more time.

Understanding Information on Seed Packets.

As soon as your seeds are in the ground, mark your rows to help you remember what seeds are planted where. Water seeds gently; you don’t want to wash them away before they take root. Keep your seed packets tucked nearby in a garden shed drawer or a garden journal. You’ll want to refer to them for reminders and growing tips as seeds sprout and grow.

Seed packet information is important because every type of seed is different. For example, some seeds need light to germinate, so they’re planted close to the surface. Others need darkness, so they’re planted deeper. Seed packets will also include an expiration date. Seeds do expire, so don’t expect old seeds to produce.

Most vegetables do best in soil rich with organic matter. Adding materials such as compost or earthworm castings can help provide your garden with the organic materials it needs. Layer 3 to 4 inches of compost on top of your garden, and then incorporate it down into the soil several inches. Mix it in well, smooth it out, and you’re set for simple seeds. You may want to also take soil samples and have your soil tested. You’ll get a report that recommends more in-depth ways to improve your garden and its soil. Your local county extension agent can help with testing information and kits.

Growing garden edibles directly from seeds has many benefits. You’re not limited to the varieties your local garden center carries — you can choose from hundreds of modern or heirloom types. Plus, you get to watch tiny sprouts of garden edibles appear as seeds begin to grow.

When you buy from an established seed company, the packaging includes all the information you need to start seeds right: how deep to plant, how to space your seeds and rows, how soon seeds will germinate (stop being dormant and start to grow), and how long you’ll have to wait for harvest.

Depending on where you live, some seeds can’t be sown outdoors and still produce a harvest before frost comes in fall. For example, northern U.S. summers are too short for tropical veggies, such as tomatoes and bell peppers, to grow from seed unless they’re started indoors several weeks ahead of planting time. But many other seeds can be planted directly into spring gardens, no matter where you live. With the right tools, growing delicious vegetables from seeds doesn’t get simpler.

Sources:

By growing garden vegetables directly from seed, you and your family can enjoy all the benefits of homegrown edibles plus the added fun and ease of starting seeds from scratch outdoors. The GardenTech ® family of brands wants you to discover all the joys and rewards of gardening, and the GardenTech blog is here to help.

Seed packets also tell when to plant your seeds outdoors. This may be the most important piece of information of all. Different seeds germinate at different soil temperatures, which differ from air temperatures. If the soil is too cold — or too hot — germination won’t occur.

Preparing Your Garden for Spring Planting.

2. Steil, Aaron, “Vegetable Harvest Guide,” Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, July 2004.

Seeds to Sow Straight to the Garden.