How Long Do Vegetable Seeds Keep?

I am always reading about Doomsday Preppers and their lists of survival gear should the economy collapse or robots take over the world or what have you. Top of the list is fresh water or the means to filter it, which I completely agree with. Water is your number one concern apart from getting shot or run over by a robot, I suppose. After that they list things like guns, ammo, matches, gold, silver, fuel etc. Rarely do I see the real gold on their lists…vegetable seeds.

Gold pea pod

She who has a vault full of vegetable seed will be the one with infinite bargaining power. And sustainability. Just make sure the seed you save is non-hybrid and not genetically modified, as neither will produce seed that can be planted again for the same results.

Global Crisis aside, keeping vegetable seed just makes good sense. Sometimes you only need a few, so save yourself some money by keeping leftover seed for the following year. Or better yet, learn how to save your own seed. Not only does this save you money, but that way you are able to collect from the plants that have the attributes you want and are best suited for your own soil and climate.

Saving seed

Seeds should be stored in a cool, dark location around 45 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit (seven to ten degrees Celsius with less than 40% humidity.

Moisture, heat and sunshine are what seeds require to grow. Dry, cool and dark are what they need in order to stay both viable and dormant.

Viable seeds have been found in tombs dating back thousands of years because storage conditions have met all three optimum criteria – dry, cool and dark.

How long do vegetable seeds keep? The following chart gives you a general idea, but if stored optimally you can expect seed to stay viable much, much, longer. Even decades.

Artichokes – 5 years

Beans – 3 years

Beets – 4 years

Broccoli – 3 years

Brussels Sprouts – 4 years

Cabbage – 4 years

Carrots – 3 years

Cauliflower – 4 years

Chard – 4 years

Corn – 2 years

Cress – 5 years

Cucumbers – 5 years

Eggplant – 4 years

Endive – 5 years

Fennel – 4 years

Kale – 4 years

Kohlrabi – 4 years

Leeks – 1 year

Lettuce – 5 years

Melons – 5 years

Onion Sets – 1 year

Onion Seeds – 2 years

Peas – 3 years

Peppers – 2 years

Potato Tubers – 6-8 months

Pumpkins – 4 years

Radish – 5 years

Rutabaga – 4 years

Spinach – 2 years

Summer Squash – 4 years

Tomatoes – 4 years

Turnips – 5 years

Watermelon – 4 years

Winter Squash – 4 years

While this chart is useful, always keep in mind that everything comes down to seed quality and storage conditions.

I recently watched a YouTube video by MIgardener who bought a shadow case with four full packets of seeds from the 1930’s on Etsy  and managed to sprout radish and a no-longer-heard-of tomato seed that had been in the shadow case for 85 years!

So before tossing out a packet of seed based on the date always “test” the seed by sprinkling ten seeds between layers of moist paper towel and then slipping into a plastic bag or lidded container and leaving in a warm place. Check on the seed every few days to see if any seeds have germinated. Using ten gives you an easy-math percentage. If two sprout your seed is twenty percent viable; if eight sprout it is eighty percent viable and so forth.

For more information on saving your own seed you can find all sorts of books and articles on the subject. Once you start you will discover that saving your own seed is easy, exciting and very addictive. You might even end up with a variety of vegetable so different from what you started with and so specially suited to your climate and area you can sell the seed as your own.

If you’re interested here are a couple of great books on seed saving that are well worth checking out. Who knows? If preppers are right, one day your life may depend on this kind of knowledge. And even if they’re wrong, saving seed is easy, cost effective and a whole lot of fun.

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Five Fabulous Uses for Springtime Pussy Willows

One

Harbinger of Spring

When I lived in the country the first pussy willow sightings were greeted with an excitement that verged on crazed. We cheerfully fell in creeks and filled our boots with snow and melt water in our determination to snap off a few branches to bring home. Mason jars crammed with pussy willow branches graced the farm table and window sills until the furry gray capsules began sprouting messy yellow fuzz.

Two

Bee Banquet

Bees are just the opposite. The first grey pussy willow buds are of little interest, but when they become fuzzed with yellow pollen they slam on their brakes and dance for joy. Word quickly spreads through the hive and soon swarms of bees arrive reveling and rolling in the pussy willow pollen. Other than dandelions, there are few early sources of pollen for hungry hives making pussy willows vital for the bees survival.

Three

Pollination Attraction

If you like bringing a few branches of pussy willows indoors in the spring, instead of tossing them out when they sprout pollen, place them in a bucket of water and strategically set them in the garden to attract bees for pollination purposes. If they get used to coming to your garden for pollen they will return when the apple blossoms are ready. And then the tomatoes. And then the squash. You get the picture. No garden? Simply place the pussy willows on the back porch where you can enjoy watching bees enjoy a springtime snack. It’s a great nature project for children and adults alike.

Four

Plant Starter

After the bud and pollen show are over and green leaves have sprung in their place, place the branches in a large bucket of water to steep and then use the water for starting young plants. Willow bark gives off a natural growth hormone that makes an excellent plant starter. It can also be used when transplanting annuals, perennials or even trees to get them off to a great start. Effective, organic and free! Sources suggest you steep the branches for four weeks before using on plants for best results.* see end of article for more details

Five

Propagation Sensation

Willows are very tenacious. When branches are left in a bucket of water they will quickly sprout roots. Simply poke the branch with its newly hatched roots into the ground and water well. That’s it! In a couple of years you will have a whole new willow tree to harvest pussy willows from.

This is a great way to share your willow tree with friends or to propagate an outstanding willow tree that you might come across in the woods. Do so responsibly, of course.

I used to take daily walks down a narrow country road with willow filled ditches on both sides. Every spring there was one willow tree that stood out from the rest. While the others hatched pussy willows the size of a small finger tip, this one gave birth to grey buds the size of a quarter.

My parents lived on a farm four miles away. One spring I showed my mother the willow and she was gobsmacked. She wanted my father to bring his tractor, dig it up and plant it in her garden. “But that’s my spring willow,” I protested. “I look forward to walking past it every year. You can’t take it!”

She grudgingly relented and made do with cutting off a branch, placing it in water and then planting it when healthy roots emerged. To our amazement, the tree quickly filled a corner of her garden and years later, when they moved to town, another branch was cut and placed in her city garden. It too quickly filled a corner of the garden and provided years of enormous vase-worthy spring-time offerings.

As for the original willow, only two years after I talked my mother out of taking it, that narrow country road was widened and the willow was lost beneath the indifferent track of a D-8 Cat. Mom never missed an opportunity to show me her willow and remark, “Good thing I at least took a branch before it was gone for good.”

So if you see an amazing willow-especially one that is about to be demolished- you know what to do.

Think like a mother.

But you only need to take a branch.

*To make willow water plant starter you don’t have to wait for the branches to leaf out; any willow branches at any stage will do. Figure on about a cup’s worth of willow branches per gallon. Some people cut willow branches into pieces and pour boiling water over them to speed up the process, making a potent plant starter in as little as 24 hours.

Laundry Hamper Petunia Tower

A few years ago I turned an old laundry hamper into a petunia tower. Here is a pictorial tutorial…

As you can see, it is pretty straight forward. Put in some soil, cut holes, stick in petunias, water, fertilize, repeat.

Due to it draining from the sides, this is not a balcony-friendly strata-approved container, so I probably won’t be revisiting this project anytime soon. I will have to wait until I am back to gardening on the ground. However, I thought some of you on-the-ground gardeners might want to give this a go. If you do, please send pictures if you have the time and I’ll devote another post to this project to showcase the results!

 

Excited to Death

I just read about a pilot project called the Urban Death Project that is a game changer for the funeral industry. You only have to look at the acres dedicated to cemeteries while population grows and housing costs soar, to see the way we honor our dead needs serious tweaking. We can’t keep giving land to the dead at the expense of the living.

And it’s not just the land use, but the chemicals and caskets we are putting into it. Embalming fluid used to preserve bodies contain formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol and other solvents, none of which are doing the earth any good.

Cremation has its own issues. It seems environmentally friendly but its fiery nature means all kinds of greenhouse gas, mercury, dioxins and furans are released into the air with every firing.

The Urban Death Project plans to change all that in a way that all people-but especially gardeners-can embrace.

Touted as “Part public park, part funeral home and part memorial grounds” the plan is to build what equates to a fancy composting system for humans. Loved ones are wrapped in a shroud, carried to the top of a building that houses the recomposition system where they are gently laid to rest and covered in wood chips. After that nature does its thing until the result is a rich compost harvested from the bottom of the recomposition system and used on the flower beds in the park-like surroundings. You can come and visit the park and reflect on your loved one as they nourish the flowers.

If all goes to plan the first funeral should take place by 2023 in the first test facility that hopes to be built on the grounds of Washington State University.

This is definitely how I want to be buried. For a gardener to return to the earth, truly part of the circle of life…well, I can’t think of a bigger honor than that.

If I die before human composting makes its way to Canada, I guess my loved ones can simply find a large compost pile and stuff me in. But that’s probably illegal. Okay, that’s definitely illegal. And…well, there would be lots of issues that are best not discussed here. Let’s just hope the technology (which seems a generous term for something as natural and ancient as composting) gets here soon.

If you’re curious about the project you can watch a video and read up on all the facts here.

Spring flowers in park

Frog Prevention Month

I phoned a company this morning and was put on hold as wait times were longer than anticipated. Anticipated by whom? I wondered. Twelve minutes later I had answered the first question (longer than anticipated by me that’s whom) and raised another.

I was using my time on hold to clear clutter on my desk and thinking about that commercial where an ecstatic dancing lady is twirling about her kitchen eating crackers and cream cheese while on hold. She is having so much fun eating the product that when the company she has called finally answers she asks if she can have another couple minutes. I wondered if we had any crackers and cream cheese.

And then the ongoing on-hold monologue that I had pushed to the background said something that caught my attention.

“Did you know that March is Frog Prevention Month?”

Frog prevention month!

I did not know this. I did not know it at all. Moreover I had questions. Lots of them. Why would this company want to eradicate frogs? What were frogs doing that was so horrible it required an entire month set aside to launch an awareness campaign? Had frogs gone rogue? Were they spreading disease? Infesting houses? Poisoning children?

I was so outraged and caught up in my thoughts that I missed the spiel that followed. The recording looped itself around and once again I was asked if I knew March was Frog Prevention Month. Once again, I did not. The voice went on to inform me that we needed to prevent frogs because it was important to keep safe online and prevent identity theft. Ask us how!

Whaaat?

Then I realized he was saying fraud, not frogs.

And my day has just got started.

Blonde princess kissing the frog at night

 

 

 

What Was Tulip Mania?

While debates continue to rage about the precise details and magnitude of what became dubbed Tulip Mania, the term refers to the astronomic rise and collapse of tulip prices between 1633 and 1637 in the Netherlands.

Starting around the mid 1500’s botanical finds were the equivalent of today’s latest gadgetry. Instead of lining up all night outside a box store for the new smart phone or what-have-you, buyers lined the docks waiting for a glimpse of an incoming ship loaded down with flora wonders from afar.

As tulips gained popularity investors became interested and prices sky rocketed. Forty tulip bulbs were recorded as selling for 100,000 guilders at a time when skilled craftsmen were earning around 300 guilders a year. In other words forty tulip bulbs sold for the equivalent of over 333 years of wages and this at a time when living into your late forties was a remarkable feat, especially given that between 1635-37 there was an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Holland.

And it wasn’t just the people who were battling disease. So were the tulip bulbs. Ironically, unbeknownst at the time, it was a virus that caused certain tulips to develop the unusual two-toned streaky patterns that were so coveted by growers and buyers alike.

Just before the collapse, one tulip bulb Semper Augustus featured red and white streaked petals and carried a price tag of 10,000 guilders for a single bulb!

As is the way of things, it was likely greed that became Tulip Mania’s undoing. When buyers refused to show up at the annual bulb auction, panic ensued and prices plummeted. Though it should be said that it is not known if buyers were turned off by the inflated prices or if they were simply staying away out of fear of catching the bubonic plague. Whatever the reason, tulip mania came to a crashing halt.

I am sure those left holding the bag of bulbs in the aftermath felt cheated, but at least they had the bulbs. When the stock market crashes you are left with a pile of worthless paper, or these days, mere marks on a screen. When the tulip market crashed the bulbs could still be buried in the ground like treasure and reward the grower with a stunning springtime show year after year.

As those who love a garden know, there is no greater wealth than that.

Spring flowers in park

Seeds Springing Up

It’s -20 C, white skies and snow is swirling about the rooftops as I look out our apartment window, but spring is coming nonetheless. Seeds have started springing up all over town and even in some unlikely places.

Yesterday I was at the Homesteader Health Food Store in Fort St John and came across this rack of seeds from a seed company in Barrhead, Alberta called Harmonic Herbs that I had never heard of before.

 

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It is always nice to see dedicated non GMO, open pollinated and heirloom seeds being offered, wherever you find them. To have seeds designed for the prairies-which our region mimics in so many ways-is an added bonus. And to have it offered at a local source is even better. I think most people want to shop local, but we don’t always know what’s out there and sometimes it just gets easier to go online.

It’s interesting just how much people are buying online these days. Back in the day the Milk Man delivered dairy goods, the Bread Man dropped off baking and people showed up at your door hawking everything from encyclopedias to vacuum cleaners. Then came mall mania and everyone went out to source their own goods and home delivery for many things became a relic of the past.

Now we have come full circle-sort of. People are getting pretty much everything delivered right to their door. Some things come from local sources; I have heard of bakeries in Toronto that now deliver door to door. However, a lot of stuff comes from places like Amazon or from companies far away.

As I said, I think people want to buy local, they just don’t always have the time or energy to track things down. That’s why whenever I spot something local and garden related, I like to post it here just in case anyone doesn’t know or is interested. Please feel free to do the same.

So far I have only bought a miserly pack of Golden Detroit beets (at Canadian Tire) for my community garden beds. As much as I love regular beets, I love the golden version even more. They look beautiful roasted, tossed in a salad or just as a pretty vegetable side dish. Best of all they don’t bleed all over your hands when you’re cutting them up.

As much as I love golden beets, I won’t be filling all four beds with them. It is time to look over my plans and figure out what other seeds I need to buy.

Wow. You know you’re a complete garden geek when just typing those words gives you a case of the giddys.

mature woman chooses  seeds at store