Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Seed Inventory

Every year at this time I do a seed inventory of what I have, what I no longer want, and what I've saved. I use this as a basis for figuring out what I need to order for next year. In addition I put up a post about what I have to trade and give away (to come soon) that consists of seed that I have saved over the year and seed that I have decided to no longer grow.

My first pass through the containers nets me two piles. Seed I no longer want to grow and seed that is too old. The first is based upon how things grew and tasted. For instance my Rainbow Chard is going this year. I like the taste of Ruby Chard more and would like to try a green variety. I will miss the yellow stalks of Rainbow Chard, but to me taste reigns supreme and my tastes (I know not all of you agree) say Ruby Chard tastes better.

I can determine if seed is too old by two ways. The first is by a germination test. You put 10 seeds onto a damp paper towel in a plastic bag (make sure there is the smallest bit of airflow) and put the bag in a warm location. If they sprout, you are golden. If not buy more seed. BTW if less than 50% sprout it is usually best to toss anyway. The seeds are not very strong at that point and can make for weak seedlings. I however am just using another method. I check the dates. Different seed keeps a different amount of time.

Short (1-2): alliums, corn, parsnip (use new seed every year), spinach
Medium (3-5): carrots (on the short side), legumes, lettuce, peppers, tomatillos
Long (6+): beets, brassica family, cucurbit family, eggplant, tomato

How you store your seeds makes a big difference too. I store mine in a plastic air tight container in the fridge. Before I open it, I always let it come to room temperature so there is no condensation. This year I threw out some old spinach, carrots, and onions. I will only save spinach or onion each year if I'm not counting on the variety. Otherwise it is only new seed.

Seed that I'm no longer growing:

Lettuce: Austrailan Yellow Leaf(2009), Simpson Elite(2008), Prizehead(2008)
Tomatoes: Tumbling Tom(2009x9), Early Ssubakus Aliana(2009)
Squash: Dark Green Zucchini(2008)
Radish: Crimson Giant(2005), Pinetree Mix(2009), Reggae(2009)
Eggplant: Slim Jim(2008); Lavender Touch(2009)
Peas: Super Sugar Snap(2008), Mammoth Melting Snow Pea(2008)
Bean: Fortex(2008)
Greens: Tyfon Holland Greens(2009), Strawberry Spinach(2009), Bright Lights Swiss Chard(2009)

Seed that I saved:

Dried Bean: Ottawa Cranberry; Trail of Tears
Tomatillo: Pineapple
Chili Pepper: Early Jalapeno
Lettuce: Red Sails, Deer Tongue
Herbs: Dill, Coriander(cilantro)
Flowers: Ground control marigold, Tithonia, Johnny Jump Up, Borage, False Indigo, Jewel Nasturtium
Tomatoes: Chocolate Cherry, Market Miracle, Black Moor, Emma-Sungold F3, Gabrielle-Sungold F3

Seed that is left over and might be used next year:

Peppers: Cayenne(2009 Pinetree), Early Jalapeno (2009 Pinetree), Serrano (2009 Pinetree)
Tomatoes: Sungold F2(2008 saved), Aussie(2008 saved), Market Miracle(2008 Wintersown), Black Cherry(2008 Wintersown), Chocolate Cherry(2008 Wintersown), Moon Yellow(2008 Wintersown)
Lettuce: Merveille de Quatre Saison(2009 Pinetree); New Red Fire(2008 Pinetree), Red Sails(2008)
Greens: Rhubarb Chard (Burpee 2008), Golden Corn Salad(2009 Michelle)
Brassicas: Dwarf Blue Curled Kale(2008 Botanical Interests), Gonzales Cabbage(2009 Pinetree), Broccoli Packman(2008 Vermont Bean Seed Co), Rubicon Napa Cabbage( 2008 Johnnys), Purple Mizuna(2008 Johnnys), Tatsoi(2008 Johnnys), Komatsuna(2009 Pinetree), Fun Jen(2008 Pinetree)
Squash: Neck Pumpkin(2009 Pinetree), Magdalena Big Cheese(2009SSEY)
Cucumbers: Diamant(2009 Johnnys), Armenian(2009 Wintersown x6)
Basil: Lemon Basil(2009 Pinetree), Holy Basil(2009 Pinetree), Sweet Basil(2008)
Snap Beans: Kentucky Wonder(2008 Pinetree)
Peas: Cascadia(2009 Pinetree)


  1. That's so organized! I used to be like that. . . but I ran out of room in the fridge. I'm using the basement now, and it's pretty cool.

    I finally caved and got rid of both old and "don't like" seeds this summer.

    I hope this is part of what makes your garden grow so well!

  2. This is inspiring me to clean out my seed box! I am something of a seed hoarder, I have a hard time tossing them out even if I didn't like them or they didn't do well. This could be the year...

  3. Love your list, Daphne! It's so helpful. I'm tempted to try the marigolds and tomatillos next year myself! I know it's hard to pass up the yellow-stemmed chard, but I think you're doing the right thing. (Let me just say that if you only had chickens, they love yellow-stemmed chard so you can grow it as an ornamental and know it's not going to waste!) Now I want to know what's on your to-buy list for next year. When you get a moment!

  4. A task I need to get to asap. I have been planning the garden in my head for a couple weeks. Time to get it mapped out on paint and organize my seeds.

    Now that you mention it, I remember your posts on saving the lettuce seeds. I have lots of Cherokee Purple seeds so I can send them. I have actually already sent them out to three people, I think I have enough for every veggie blogger :-) I recall you didn't like the red torpedo onions, do you have any of those seeds available?

  5. Hooray! Fun with seeds! I love your hard hearted ways, Daphne. We did a clean up last fall, throwing the unwanted into the cleared veggie bed in case something decided to grow. Chard, of course came up, nothing else or it was eaten. I do love playing with the packets and sifting the saved seeds in the shed, usually in January. Too busy now.

  6. I'd just love the ability to start tomato seeds. I have a light strung in the basement, but it's still too cool down there for too long to get the toms to germinate and grow well.

    Does keeping them in the fridge really help? I have mine in a box in a kitchen counter. Think all my seeds are done for...then again, it wouldn't be that much of a loss since I'd most likely just order the seeds again since I only have 4-5 of each kind left, but you've given me a new task while I'm waiting on those catalogs! Thanks!

  7. You've inspired me to do some housekeeping. I have a seed box but I am not so organized. And at some point I just plant out everything left over in a spare bit of ground and take what I get.

    I prefer your method.

  8. Daphne, you are so organized! Wow... you inspire me!

    Thanks for sharing this post... I learn so much from your blog!

  9. I need to sort mine, too. I used to always keep mine in the refrigerator, too, but when I forgot a couple seasons, and found my seeds still germinated the next year, I quit doing it. I've been thinking of going back to refrigerating them, though. One of these times some seeds may go bad because I didn't store them the best way.

    I like the photo of you in your blog.

  10. I have know idea what just happened...I just commented but it didn't upload...strange.

    Anyway, what I said was - Great post! Very informative, especially the life expectancy dates for the seeds. It's nice to know that tomato seeds last so long.

    You have a pretty extensive seed collection here. Just goes to show how much diversity you can squeeze into a home garden.

  11. Stefaneener, if I didn't clean the seeds out every year mine wouldn't fit into the fridge either. It is the real reason I do it, so the seeds I love have space in the fridge.

    Michelle, I used to be like that too. I had packets ten years old that I hadn't touched in eight years. It just seemed so silly for me to keep them. In addition it made it hard to find the seed I really wanted to grow.

    OFB, I have lots of seed for both. So when I put up my trade post (not really a trade post since I will also give them away) ask for some. And I so wish I had chickens. I'd grow the Tyfon for them. It is so prolific. I will get to my buy list. That one takes me longer. I have the rough draft right now, but I try to pare it down.

    Dan, yes I can save the seed for them. Just remember they are onions. Since they were stored well they will probably come up just fine (2009 seed from Pinetree), but occasionally they don't since they are short lived seed. I was going to toss them, but I'll save them for you.

    fairegarden, if I weren't hard hearted about seed, I'd have so many boxes of them. I used to do that, but just couldn't take it anymore. Now they all fit neatly in just two.

    Ribbit, yes keeping them cold and dry helps. Don't put them in the fridge unless your box is airtight. If you don't store them well and your house gets hot and humid the seed will keep a lot shorter (think the shorter end of the range and sometimes less if the heat and humidity are bad). If you keep them cold and dry they can keep twice as long as what my chart lists. And if you keep them in the freezer (not the defrosting kind) and leave them there most seed will live for ages.

    mss, lol I love to buy seed too much to use it all up. And with seed I saved (like the Ground Control Marigolds, of which I saved tons) I have so much I'd need a much bigger garden to get it all to grow.

    Toni, you're welcome

    Sue, unless seed is stored in really bad conditions lots of the seed will germinate for years still. Even out of the fridge. I do it so the seed I care about will last for a decade (like my tomato experiments).

    Thomas, Susan Ashworth says that tomatoes can last 4-10 years depending upon variety and storage conditions. I have had 6 year old tomato seed germinate for me well. I've never lost tomato seed due to age. It always gets given away or used up by then.

  12. I have yet to sit down and do my annual seed culling process. I do have a germination test going at the moment for some pea seed I saved. Wanted to verify it was viable and good before I shared it with others because we had a damp fall and they were hard to get dried properly. Made me concerned they were affected in some manner.

  13. You are so organized and speedy. I never get to this until January. And then I'm too sentimental. I have such a hard time culling.

    Come January, I'll be flashing back to this post for some guidance. THANKS, Daphne!