Author Topic: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow  (Read 514 times)

Offline Westheathdave

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How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« on: June 12, 2016, 09:12:28 AM »
Most of us have old seeds and wonder whether or not they will sprout, take a look at this and you will never throw away good seeds cos you do not know whether or not they will germinate.   Have fun.

http://www.underwoodgardens.com/easy-seed-germination-testing-at-home/?utm_source=greenrope&utm_medium=email&utm_content=26898&utm_campaign=2957904#.V10V-vkrJhE

Offline Big Gee

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2016, 10:25:14 AM »
Good link that Dave.

That method with the wet paper towelling for working out germination percentage rates, is also a tried & tested method for sprouting (chitting) stubborn seeds like parsnips. Parsnips are notoriously 'iffy' (along with some other members of the Umbelliferae family e.g. parsley, celery, dill, cicelly etc. etc.). Plus of course the fact that many 'old school' gardeners have an obsession about sowing them in what is probably one of the worst months of the year for germination (February), why I've never worked out, because if one plant has enough time to grow before it's harvested then  it's parsnips!  :-\

It may not be practical to chit seeds for a field full of parsnips, but for the allotment/ veg. garden grower, chitting parsnip seed is definitely worth it.

Thanks Dave - a good tip for the 'newbies' amongst us  ThU:-)
 

Offline Poppa Tommo

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2016, 09:32:35 AM »
Ah, the old parsnip conundrum.

One of the most delicious of root veg's in MHO. And yet one of the most awkward to germinate...old books even say to place 3 seeds per station as they are so notoriously slow to get going...sometimes taking weeks to show themselves whilst all the time the weeds keep trying to choke them.

I pondered on this, knowing that any of the tap roots hate being transplanted if sown in trays. They will fork very easily, resulting, often in small, stunted, forked roots.

For years ( before it became trendy) I have used the loo roll inners for bean, sweet corn etc, raising. Great for them but still not good for parsnips, carrots etc. as they send out a long, thin string of a taproot that is easily damaged, before showing much greenery.

Then one year before Ruth chucked out another inner from the kitchen roll she asked me if I needed it for beans, etc. I almost dismissed it and then wondered whether it would work for parsnips. I collected all subsequent kitchen roll inners diligently. Following spring I gave it a go. Set out a tray with about 12 tubes, filled them up and placed a Parsnip seed ( Avon Resister, I think - lovely variety, sadly seemingly no longer available) in each one. Kept them moist and put them  in the small plastic greenhouse I had back then.

It seemed like a miracle. Not only did I get 100% germination, quicker than normal, there were no weeds or cold ,rainy condition for them to struggle with. Perhaps the warmth during germination was all they needed.

Anyway, knowing how they seem to have the imperative to send that long thin root down in record time, I lifted two of  the tubes every day - yep EVERY day. As soon as a saw the tiniest tip of the root beginning to show itself. It was out with the rotavator and then very carefully digging a deep enough hole to gently slide in the whole tube containing the parsnips.

Of course, now the parsnips had a clear advantage over any weeds and they grew away beautifully. Fantastic long, uniform roots.

I don't do it any other way, now.

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Offline Westheathdave

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2016, 10:18:35 AM »
ThU32:-) Brilliant one there Tommo I may try that as I like parsnips but never had much success in the past. Amazing how just a bit of experimentation and patience pays off. 10/10 for that mate.

Offline Big Gee

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2016, 12:42:17 PM »
It's the way show-bench growers have always done it with their carrots & parsnips (parsnips are also my favourite veg. to eat by the way). They then grow them on in downpipes or big plastic barrels.

It's fine for the numbers you need for a small plot, garden or for showing, but it's rather labour intensive for anyone who wants to grow them in any quantity (kitchen roll tubes don't accumulate that fast either!). But you're quite right Tommo - it's often a disaster if the tap root gets hindered or damaged. Certainly the key is to get them chitted first, because they tend to be very stubborn if left to their own devices, and it's a nightmare if the weeds get the drop on them.

Avon Resister is also an old favourite of mine as well, the last lot I got from Wallis Seeds - thanks to the scary corvoid's eagle eyes! Here's a link to their site:

http://www.wallis-seeds.co.uk/

Contact details:

Wallis Seeds, Broads Green, Great Waltham, Chelmsford, Essex CM3 1DS
Telephone/fax. 01245 360 413
Email: info@wallis-seeds.co.uk
« Last Edit: June 16, 2016, 12:51:25 AM by Big Gee »
 

Offline Lottylady

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2016, 02:37:29 PM »

fascinating stuff......many thanx for the info.....will try parsnips again next year...grew 2 weeds that I thought were delphinium....grew quickly lovingly potted up ....only to be weeds! So I am learning.

Offline Big Gee

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2016, 12:57:54 AM »

fascinating stuff......many thanx for the info.....will try parsnips again next year...grew 2 weeds that I thought were delphinium....grew quickly lovingly potted up ....only to be weeds! So I am learning.
lol(1)
A classic gardeners tale of woe! I did the same thing in an old milk churn years ago. Thought I had perennials in there (unknowing to me they had actually died over winter) left what was in there to grow - thinking they were my flowers - only to find I'd nurtured weeds. Very embarrassing! It's easily done though Lottylady - you're not alone!
 

Offline Poppa Tommo

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2016, 08:13:54 AM »


Avon Resister is also an old favourite of mine as well, the last lot I got from Wallis Seeds - thanks to the scary corvoid's eagle eyes! Here's a link to their site:

http://www.wallis-seeds.co.uk/

Contact details:

Wallis Seeds, Broads Green, Great Waltham, Chelmsford, Essex CM3 1DS
Telephone/fax. 01245 360 413
Email: info@wallis-seeds.co.uk


Thanks for the link, mate, and well spotted, Scary....crows obviously have excellent eyesight.

 I had a look and they say that parsnip seeds need to be freshly harvested. They don't list any at the moment but it would appear that Autumn (same with most seeds, really) is the time when they will list up to 11 varieties of parsnip.

We'll have to wait and see if Avon Resister is among them. If I do get some I think I will keep them going, myself, letting one plant run to seed each year. If this works I will put seeds up on the seed swap board along with all the others I do.  ThU:-)
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing

Offline lottieguy

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2016, 09:43:50 AM »
Hi Ya, How interesting, I have sown a parsnip called palace, The weeds have took of and made it difficult to see them. Why can't they take the growth gene from weeds and put it crops? The germination has been very scrappy but I did wonder where avon had gone. I like the idea of the kitchen tubes and will give that ago next season. ThU:-) I have sown 12 different brassica varieties in my cold frame down the lottie and out of all the seeds sown only 4 are showing, this was cauli's, cabbage, brocoli, calabrese, sprout and kale. I am most dissapointed and trying to work out what has gone wrong. I dug the cols frame over due to ants and left it open tp water and get rid of them then we had that cold snap. was it that that did for them? or was it slugs? or was I using older seed? I now have  a dilemma,  do I sow in trays at home, better late, or redo the cold frame,  ss:-( I have looked in the garden centres for ready grown plant but they are so expensive. I wonder why I took on such an at times frustrating hobby, I know, I love it when it goes right. Anyway Happy gardening to all. PS, I sowed runners outside as well as frenchies and runner plants then again the cold wet spell so they are looking sorry for hemsekves currently aswell. What a hobby.  lol(1)
« Last Edit: June 16, 2016, 09:47:26 AM by lottieguy »

Offline Big Gee

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2016, 01:09:59 PM »
Could well be the cold lottieguy I'm sure the other 'Shedders' are sick of me always harping on about the hares & the tortoises, but it really can be a folly to sow too early. Most seeds need a soil temperature of around 10 - 15oC to germinate really well, much below that and they just sit there. If it's also very wet with a cold soil the seed will rot before it germinates - hence the iffy results. That's why I'm totally mystified why old school gardeners STILL insist on putting their parsnip seeds in open ground around February, total folly, especially as they are slow germinators in any case. Just because mature parsnips taste better after a bit of frost and are incredibly hardy as full grown plants, their seed is just as, if not more, vulnerable to cold soil and wet conditions than many other seeds.

When it comes to brassicas old Mr. Slug loves a munch on baby shoots, often destroying them before you even see them. Look carefully for little green 'bristles' sticking out of the soil where they've been chopped off at ground level.

Many 'hares' land up doubling their work load (and frustrations) because they started too early, then they have to do a second sowing. Not nice that, very disheartening. The tortoises, whilst starting at a later time often have better crops than the hares, because the other problem with shooting out of the trap a bit soon is that the seeds that do germinate often get a blast of cold and become stunted, when that happens they are like children of old who had rickets  they never grow to full size and are never as vigorous.
 

Offline lottieguy

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2016, 01:46:47 PM »
Hi Ya, with you on that one BG. We mentioned it in an earlier post where I said I was itching to go. The annoying thing is I did hold off sowing as we discussed. Perhaps when the cold shot came I should of covered them but I did see some movement and seedling leaves I think which is why I was also considering slugs. I will get to the bottom of it. I have some baby trays with compost in soak so will try again here at home in cover and maybe re-sow a few at lottie and keep a closer eye on them. Good luck and happy gardening.

Offline Big Gee

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Re: How to check old seeds to see if they viable to sow
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2016, 02:04:21 PM »
Another factor that you should consider is killing them with what some view as kindness. It's a fact that more plants die of too much water than too little.

Compost in seed trays should be kept MOIST but NEVER waterlogged. It's very easy to drown seeds and seedlings by over watering. Unless the compost is a bit dry to the touch the watering and especially the soaking should be well regulated. Never let the compost dry, but never let it get waterlogged either, the latter is more likely to kill than the former!