Friday, 15 June 2012

A Seedy Tale

Friday 15th June 2012
A windy one with its fair share of rain
I see the hosepipe ban has finally been lifted. Who knows, the water companies might start taking some long-term decisions now.

I also saw on the news last night NASA images of a storm about to hit the South West of England, described as a once in fifty year event. This sort of extreme weather seems to be the norm these days. If it's not storms it's droughts, record rainfall, high winds...
And it's all sent to make life more difficult for the smallholder!

Luckily over in The Fens we've escaped the worst of the recent weather, though driving rain and gusting winds did mean that I spent most of today confined to the greenhouse.

Lost Seeds
During a dry spell this morning I conducted a thorough audit of the veg beds, checking out just which seeds I'd planted and their germination rate.
A couple of beds seem to have suffered slug damage (the emerging Swis chard and dwarf beans). Aside from that though, I think I have got to the root of the problem. Old seeds.

Early this spring I came across a Roses tin full of seed packets from a couple of years ago. A few varieties which I'd completely forgotten about and a few which I'd replaced with newer seed. Always one to skimp on costs I thought I'd use the old seed before the new. You can guess what's happened.
Yes, hardly any of the older seed has germinated, including just about all of the carrots.

I know that some seeds, such as parsnip, just don't stay viable even through to the next year. I didn't think this would be the case with my Hamburg Parsley, but last year's seed has yielded precisely zero seedlings. Obviously more akin to Parsnip than Parsley. This should be a lovely crop, with nutty, parsnip-like roots and leaves which can be used as parsley.
Last year I had a seed disaster with this too, dropping all the seed as I was in the process of sowing it. In the end I replaced the seed and sowed late, mid June, and still ended up with a half decent crop. Looks like it'll be a repeat this year, hopefully with the same result.

As for the rest of the seeds, I have a few carrots germinated but I'll be resowing lots more this week, using new seed. Same with the spring onions which I like to plant with carrots. My favourite golden beetroot, delicious, and the gloriously patterned Chiogga have not faired well either. But I do have plenty of the more traditional varieties, so they'll have to do for this year.

In general, I think seeds lose about 20% of their viability each year, so I should have expected well over half of the two year old seeds to germinate. That clearly hasn't been the case.
I'm guessing that the way they were stored is the problem, especially since most of the packets were opened and half used. In fact, I have no idea where the seeds have been for the last year and a half!

Another lesson learned.

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