Time to get your seed packets sorted
AS a rule, it is always best to use seeds before they reach the best-before or sow by date – usually given as a month and year - printed on the back of packets. Most will have been packed between one to two years before this date and will be at their most viable, providing high germination rates.
Once the seeds have gone past their best-before date, they are likely to remain viable for up to two years, possibly longer, but germination rates will nosedive. So, there’s no need to throw the packets away, as long as you don’t expect the kind of results you would get with newer seeds.
A big factor in all of this is how seeds are stored. Those placed in an airtight container, and stashed in a cool, dry and dark place, will provide much better results than seed packets deposited in a damp shed or inside a shoe box kept on a shelf in a light room. My criterion for eviction is that any packets more than three years past their best before date should go and there was no shortage of casualties when I had a sort out this week. Out went tomato ‘Strillo’ from 2012 and lettuce ‘Mazur’, which should have been used by 2013, along with a host of packets with no dates printed on them at all.
The worst offenders by far were several packets of sprouting seeds, including cress, fenugreek and garlic chives. Remarkably, I bought these seeds way back in 2008 and they should have been used by 2010.
Germination rates fall once seeds are past their best-before date