Friday, 5 September 2014

Seeds that never go out of date

You can rely on sunflowers to cheer up the allotment at this time of year. This one, the aptly named Giant Single sunflower, was grown from some very out-of-date seed which I sowed back in April on the basis that I might as well use them up as buy fresh. I think the packet recommended sowing by end 2009.

Expiry dates on seed packets can often be used as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. I have successfully germinated out-of-date lettuce, tomato, chilli, and beetroot seeds. Anything from the season after the expiry date, to several years in the case of lettuce in particular.

Of course germination rates are nearly always better with fresh seed and a lot depends on who the seed has been stored in the meantime. If seeds are kept cool, even cold, in the dark and, most importantly, dry, they can stay viable for years.

I've always been told that parsnips and carrots should be sowed when very fresh and always buy these new each year. Parsley, another member of the umbellifer family, doesn't germinate well if not sown within a year, but with most other veg, it can't hurt to sow any leftover seeds in modules or the open ground and see what comes up. In the case of these best-by-2009 sunflowers, around 50% germinated and there are another two Italian White sunflower plants about to burst into flower as well.

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