Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seed Stash and 2010 Ordering

Inventory your seeds (From Johnny's Seeds)

Before you order seeds, take a look at what you have left over from previous years. A few guidelines will help you decide which seeds are still good and which should be discarded.

Of primary importance is the way seeds have been stored. Exposure to moisture causes seed viability to decline, so seeds should be stored in a dry place in an airtight, watertight container. Zipper freezer bags, glass jars, plastic containers, and metal boxes can be used if they seal tightly. Buckets with tight lids also work for larger seeds like beans and corn. In humid climates, a desiccant such as silica gel or dry milk powder can be placed in the container to absorb moisture. Seed also should be kept cool, and can even be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

If seeds have been stored properly, and are not pelleted or otherwise pre-treated, this is the number of years you can expect them to remain viable:

  • 1 year: onions, parsnips, parsley, salsify, scorzonera, and spinach;
  • 2 years: corn, peas, beans, chives, okra, dandelion;
  • 3 years: carrots, leeks, asparagus, turnips, rutabagas;
  • 4 years: peppers, chard, pumpkins, squash, watermelons, basil, artichokes and cardoons;
  • 5 years: most brassicas, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, muskmelons, celery, celeriac, lettuce, endive, chicory.

Do your own germination testing
If you are in doubt about the viability of leftover seeds, don't take chances. You can test the germination easily. Moisten a coffee filter or piece of paper towel and place on it a specific number of seeds, such as 10 or 100. Fold the moistened paper over the seeds and put it in a plastic bag in a warm place. Take the paper out and inspect the seeds twice a day, spraying with water as needed to maintain moisture around the seeds. After the usual number of days required to germinate that variety, count to see how many have germinated and calculate the percentage of germination. Compare it to the germination rate on the Johnny's label; if it's close, your seeds are fine to plant. If germination is much lower or slower than expected, order new seeds.

Order early
Demand often exceeds supply for certain plants and seeds. This is particularly true of leeks, onions, and potatoes, so place your order soon. If you want potatoes in February for early planting or greensprouting, the deadline for ordering is Jan. 15. We've found an insulated carton that will get them to you in top shape, even if it's freezing here in Maine, at your farm, or somewhere in between. Specific varieties are available in 25 lb. increments. Reserve on the website right now, and your credit card won't be charged until your potatoes ship in February.

Here is what I have ordered so far after doing my inventory:

12 Georgia Jets Sweet Potato slips  (These I plan on growing in containers this year.)
 - Reportedly best for Northern growers, though yields are less than Beauregard variety which I grew last year.  Loved the flavor of the B's, but with the cool weather they just did not have time to bulk up.

 - Northern growers need to cover planting site with black plastic at least 2 weeks prior to planting to warm the soil.  This year I am going to plant through some type of mulch to aid in keeping the soil temp up.  This combined with raised container height (which also makes soil warmer) should help give my yields a boost!

- Ordered from, $11.50 for 12 plants shipped.  Requested April 19th ship date.

Moose Tubers Order:

 - LaRatte Organic Fingerlings, 3# - 'the mouse' potato.  Plump nutty flavored yellow flesh.  LATE
 - Purple Viking, 2.5# - purple skin, white slightly mealy flesh.  Great for baking or mashing.  MID
 - Keuka Gold, 2.5# - newer variety; similar to Yukon Gold but higher yielding.  Moist, firm flesh. MID
 - Red Gold, 2.5# - very early potato, around 65 days. Red skin, yellow waxy flesh.  Poor storers. VE

 - Picasso Shallots, 1#
Total:  $47.15

Nourse Farms Order:

 - Pink Champagne Currant (1)
 - Reka Blueberry (1)
 - Ouchita Blackberry (5)
Total: 49.90

Johnny's Selected Seeds:

 - Inoculant
 - Peas: Feisty, Casselode, and Premium
 - Tomatoes: Sungold and Green Zebra Indeterminate; Polbig, early Determinate
 - Cukes: Northern Pickling and Diva
 - German Extra Hardy Garlic (Oct. ship)
 - Carrots: Mokum and Sugarsnax
 - Lipstick Pepper (will compare to Carmen which I have 4 seeds left of, my current favorite)
 - Victoria Rhubarb, 3 plants
Total: $74.95
~Phew, that should about cover it!!~


Thomas said...

I will have to bookmark this post. I was looking for some info on seed viability now I found it.

I still have to place my moose tubers order. Thanks for the NOFA alert...just so i understand it right, you have to go to one of their pick up locations right?

Kelly said...

Yes. All that info should be available in a couple of days on their site. I actually ordered from Moose Tubers directly this year in order to get some conventional seed potatoes, NOFA only offered organic seed last year.

Erin said...

Yay Kelly! Thank you, thank you! I really needed a good source to check out for potatoes this year, I am now headed to check out "Moose Tubers"! So many sites don't have good info on their varieties and recommended climates.... thanks!

Kelly said...

Erin- Moose Tubers has an excellent array of potatoes, it makes it so hard to make a decision!