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Gardening tips for Duluth's Northern climate, hosted by Master Gardener Tom Kasper.

Tips for Hardy Gardeners: What do you if your not sure if your leftover seeds have "gone to seed"

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Sheila Sund
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Flickr [original photo cropped]

Depending on the type of seeds and their age, they may still be viable.

We've talked with Tom Kasper previously about perusing seed catalogs and making plans for the upcoming vegetable garden. But what about leftover seeds from last year? Are they still good? What about seeds that are even older? It depends, says Tom Kasper on a few factors:

  • The age and type of seed. Some vegetable seeds aren't often usable past the first year, such as onions, lettuce, and parsnips. Seeds of peppers, corn, beans, and peas may be viable even 2 or 3 years later, whereas tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash could be usable even 4 to 5 years later.
  • How they are stored. Chances are improved if they've been kept in a cool, dry, and dark place.

If you are not sure, there are some tests you can do as well:

  1. Place a few seeds on a wet paper towel. If they are viable, within a couple of days they should germinate.
  2. Another method is to sprinkle a few seeds into a glass of room-temperature water. If they sink within about 15 minutes, they are viable. If they float, however, they are probably not viable anymore, and should be composted.
Chris Harwood is The North 1033’s Production Director and (acting) Program Director, a morning/daytime host, and the host of Soul Village. He is also a musician, a music historian, an audio engineer, and an avid record collector.