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Why I Think February Is a Great Time to Sow Out of Date Seeds

Ah, February. That time of year when, suddenly, Spring is just about on the horizon.

This morning when I got up for work, it was noticeably lighter. There were birds singing. My rhubarb is starting to poke through (honestly. I don’t think I’m imagining these things…).

Of course, such as the gardener’s desperation for the growing season, we’re thinking about early sowing. I’ve blogged recently about tricks to bring sowing times forward, as well as the earliest veg seeds you can sow. Like everyone else, I’m eager to get going again.

However, it’s still cold – really cold in parts. As I asked before, I can’t sow, can I?

Well, I have a suggestion…

Now is a great time to sow those out of date seeds that have been hiding away in your seedbox.

I had a good sort through my seedbox earlier this week, separating out the packets by their use-by dates. Even though the weekend is forecast to be very chilly, I’m going to sow some of the out of date seeds.

Win-win situation!
The way I see things, it’s a win-win situation. I use up my old seeds whilst getting a much-needed hit of new season sowing, and if they germinate, there’s a great chance of early crops. If the seeds don’t germinate, I’ve not really lost anything as I’d only be buying fresh packets for Spring.

I’m not suggesting this always works as generally it is recommended that seeds older than 2 or 3 seasons are binned, but I’ve sown seed that has been two years out of date which has germinated with no problems.

Success… and the odd failure!
I reaped excellent harvests from radishes two years out of date a couple of years ago. They germinated during a time when some days were near enough zero in the greenhouse, which makes these seeds well worth a go in the cold weather.

I’ve also done well from out of date carrots, broad beans, and peas sown during February, but I have had failures too.

I had next to no germination from a greenhouse sowing of Kelvedon Wonder last year, which passed its sow-before date in 2013.

Germination Test
A Germination test can help determine whether the seed is still any good to use. Put about a dozen seeds together on a sheet of damp kitchen roll, and then gently roll up the sheet and place the seeds inside a clear plastic bag.

Leave them in a warm place for a few days, and if 9 of the seeds germinate you know that there’s every chance you’ll get a 75% germination rate from that packet of seeds. I’d recommend doing this for any seeds that are out of date as you get an idea of whether they’re in good nick or not.

5 thoughts on “Why I Think February Is a Great Time to Sow Out of Date Seeds”

  1. That does sound like a win win situation. I am craving that hit of seed sowing too especially when looking out on a white wintry scene right now.

  2. Some seed lasts a very long time, e.g. tomatoes perhaps 20years!
    Not that you get a chance with so few seeds in a packet 🙂
    I don’t agree with sowing old seeds in February. That would be daft for such as runner beans.
    I just tend to sow increased quantity but at the correct time. I guess you will have a good idea about the likely life of seed and there is plenty of info on the net.
    As to sell by dates – for anything – my generation looks out for their approach to buy them cheaply

  3. Hello. I subscribed to your blog hoping I might learn something. I am a complete novice when it comes to gardening, but last year we moved into a wonderful old house with a garden. We would like to make it a useful garden and plant vegetables. Unfortunately the people we bought the house from were a rather odd couple and along with all the clutter they left behind, they also left the cat with next-door-but-one. Of course, the cat still thinks it owns our garden and poops EVERYWHERE. Any advice for how to get rid of cat poop? Any advice for how to (humanely) scare away the cat? I tried lion dung. The cat just pooped on the front step instead…

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