I don’t put much stock into seed expiration dates, at least not the way I once did. The seed packet may have a specific “best used by” or “expires after” date, but that doesn’t always mean they should be tossed out then. I’ve actually kept, and planted, a number of seeds well past their supposed expiration date, many with success. In my opinion, it’s all in how you store them.
Germinating Seeds in the Garden
There are different ways to store seeds, some better than others. The use of airtight containers is likely the better option, but I don’t always follow the “rules” of gardening and tend to do my own thing. While I do keep many of the seeds saved from my garden sealed in small containers, you’ll find most of my plant seeds stored in a huge binder. It’s easier to keep them organized and takes up far less space than all those containers. And when you have a plant addiction like me, with more seeds than are probably necessary, room to store them is at a premium. But as of yet I’ve not experienced any major issues with the binder method. In fact, I seem to have more problems (and failures) with the seeds that are deemed to be the freshest.
Growing Plants from Seed
I think with seed grown plants it’s just the luck of the draw. You’ll have some that germinate easily and do quite well, while others either take forever to sprout, or never at all. Back in the day, around seed planting time, I would sow tray after tray and numerous pots with seeds. These days I’ve gotten lazier and rather than planting tons of seeds in all those trays or containers. I simply mix them all together (those with similar needs and growing conditions) with a little sand/soil and sprinkle them in a prepped garden area. I actually enjoy the surprise as to what comes up and exactly where”¦ to me it gives a more natural look. It also limits my stress when planting something that doesn’t germinate – “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.”
Thankfully, most of the time germinating seeds in the garden works well for me, but I’m not as disappointed if something decides not to grow. And when you’re unsure about a seed expiration dates, sporadic planting like this is a great way to put them to the test. I’ve even been surprised with something coming up months later. Just like in nature, you may have seeds remain in the ground for lengthy periods of time before sprouting, especially those that require stratification. And there’s nothing more fun than those serendipitous moments in the garden!
Granted, it may not be for everyone and it may not be the “correct” way to germinate seeds, but it works for me and I’m happy. The plants are too, since there’s no transplanting or acclimating involved. They just sprout and grow right where they land (if the birds don’t get to them first). I have to admit they seem to be much stronger and healthier plants when left to nature than when I go out of my way to tend to their every need. I’ve learned through decades of gardening that sometimes doing things unconventionally is just as good.