One filing system for seed packets. (Mary Lowther photo)

One filing system for seed packets. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Time to organize for next year’s seed

We should know what we already have in stock and calculate if they’re still viable.

By Mary Lowther

Seed catalogues will be coming out next month so if we’re going to order some, we should know what we already have in stock and calculate if they’re still viable.

I check the date on the package and find a chart that shows the typical lifespan of that seed. If they’re still good, I write them down on a list, sorting them alphabetically. I have a box in which I keep index cards that have empty seed packets stapled to them, with notes on the cards pertaining to how well they grew and if we liked them. If I haven’t already saved the seed and I’m out, I’ll re-order that variety, so I put these on another list, awaiting the catalogue. Then I calculate how much money I should spend on seeds so when the catalogues come out, I can decide what’s really necessary and cull what isn’t. If it costs more than I planned, I don’t tell David.

Seedy Saturday can also be a good source for seeds, as long as the seller knows how to isolate each crop to have them grow true to type.

Nurseries will do all the growing for me if I don’t want to take the trouble to grow seedlings myself, and I sometimes avail myself of them as long as they’re not too leggy or root bound. Once they’re home I isolate them for a few days so if they’re contaminated with disease or harmful insects, I can get rid of them before they infect my other plants. Country Grocer carries excellent seedlings that are grown in our climate and have produced well in my garden. They also take orders for items not on their shelves.

Most of my food crops come from seeds though, because they are much cheaper and there’s more variety, but mainly because I love the whole growing process, from saving my own seed, maybe cross-pollinating to see what comes of it, and constantly learning what works or vice versa.

When I buy seeds, most of them come from catalogues because the company will have stored them in ideal conditions until they send them. Seed packets on racks in stores could be okay if they’re in a cool area and it’s early in the season so they haven’t been out of storage too long. Having said that, sometimes, like last year when only one spinach seed sprouted, I bought a packet off a rack to save on shipping costs. I pre-sprouted those in a damp paper towel and still only got one seedling from the bunch. I’ll get some more this year, but to hedge my bets I’m also getting New Zealand spinach which we don’t like as much but it’s close enough and has grown reliably for me in the past.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.