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Can seeds go bad?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Of all the herbs I've planted, some aren't sprouting. Or sprout and die within a day or two. Can it be because of the seeds?
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #2 of 22
Isa, Are your seed packages this year's? There should be a date on the package. Seeds can lose some of their germination potential as they get older. If you do have some older seed, the best way to check it is to do a 'test' batch. Put some seeds (count out, say 15) on a damp paper towel, put the towel in a zip lock and when they sprout, count the number of sprouted versus 'duds'. That will give you a pretty good idea of what percentage of 'good' seed you'll have.

My other question would be to ask where you have your seeds - in the garden, or indoors in planting boxes? If your seeds are sprouting and then dying off, look at the bottom of the little stem, right where it goes into ground - does it look rotted? If so, 'damping off' could be the problem; caused by too much water, and not enough ventilation. Or if they haven't been planted to the correct depth in the soil, they can die off easily.

If you've planted outside, where do you live? Here in Jersey, we've had some warm days the past few weeks, but then freezes overnight, which will kill off any tender herbs. The nurseries here haven't even begun to put out the tender herbs like basil and marjoram; probably at the end of the month.

Hope this helps; if not, ask away!!
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post #3 of 22
Marmalady's damping off is my first guess too. Did you use sterile potting soil? You might have a mildew or fungus in it too.

Yes, many seeds lose viability with age. You should be OK for up to two years with most herbs. Fresher is better though.

Phil
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
I got my seeds at a hardware store with a big garden centre a few weeks ago. I don't see any date on the package, just a lot number.

I planted them inside, in large pots with good soil. All the other herbs are growing nicely. They sit on the window sill, getting good sunlight.

The pots were new so was the soil.

Thanks Marmalady & Phil
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #5 of 22
Isa, Which herbs exactly did you have problems with? My thoughts are still that it was 'damping off' maybe caused by too much water on really tender seedlings with 'watery' stems.

I know how disappointing it is when you go to all the work of getting to the garden center, schlepping your 'finds' home, planting, and then the seeds go south on you. Anyone who's done any kind of gardening has had those feelings!

Try another batch and see what happens; maybe start them in the little starter cups instead of a bigger pot, to control the water better, then transplant when they've got nice, established root systems.

Re the 'lot number' - I think the year is included in the lot # sometimes. Depends on the what brand you've bought.
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post #6 of 22
Direct sunlight may be too harsh in your situation. Try indirect but still bright light.

Phil
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
I planted basil, coriander, chives, oregano. Those are doing very well. I'm having problems with thyme and rosemary. I'll get new seeds for these two this week and will try again.

How big a container would you suggest marmalady?


Thanks again for your help!
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #8 of 22
Actually, re the replanting, especially of thyme and rosemary, you may want to just buy plants instead of seed. I remember one year I planted all seed of everything - problem was, it took so long for the plants to grow, and then I felt bad cutting them when they were still little!

I'm buying a lot of my herbs already planted, and just find it gives me a head start on when I can start using them. The only ones I really plant are basil and cilantro, and some parsley, but I also buy parsley so I can harvest sooner.

If you're going to replant, go to the nursery (again!), and get the little starter pots; they're about 2 x 2 square, and about 3 inches deep. Look for a 'starter medium' kind of potting soil to start them in.

Good Luck! And keep asking if you've got more questions. Since I don't have time to do a lot of planting this year, I'm enjoying the 'virtual gardening' I've been doing here!!!
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post #9 of 22
I agree. I tried to sprout rosemary once with no luck in the whole packet. I bought a couple and have been very happy since. If you are in a cooler zone, look for Arp Rosemary as it can overwinter outside down to zone 5. It's a coarser leaf and alleged a slightly lesser flavor, but better than most anything else a cold zone will have available.

Thyme, seeds worked for me there. My favorite varieties aren't easily available in seed or are non-true breeding cultivars. Love that lemon thyme, oregano thyme and more. Just scatter some thyme seed where you want it to end up outside and see if you get lucky. Worked for me.

Phil
post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
I usually buy plants at the end of may and leave them out in a flower box all summer long. I bought seeds this year because


I buy herbs every year. I keep them outside in a flower box. They are part of my container garden. At the end of the summer I bring them is for the winter. Transplanting each herb to a pot with new soil. They never survive. I thought if I started them inside and keep them inside they would grow all year.


Thanks again.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #11 of 22
Isa,

Seeds can go bad. Seeds can also last hundreds of years and still be viable. It all depends on the environment in which they are stored and what each cultivar prefers for storage. This is somewhat of a tangent which still addresses your question... There are gonvernmental germplasms where scientists and educational facilities preserve seeds which are not commercially grown or sold and are in danger of becoming extinct. Since 1906 we have lost 92% of all the species of plants on our planet already. When I say species, I'm not just talking about something like the "yellow pear" tomato but rather say... all "tomatoes", all of them! It is so important to save them because each cultivar possesses a genetic code and in that code could be a cure for a disease which exhists now or one which hasn't even come up yet. (If you have been handed down any seeds in your family, find out how long it's been in your family.)

The seeds are harvested at the correct time, dried properly, stored in specific environments to maintain maximum germination. The best place to store seeds is in a freezer which does not self defrost so that there is no fluctuation in moisture or temperature. Home seed savers need to keep seeds dry and in a cool dark place. Otherwise, purchase your seeds fresh each season, and know your source. If you order, there are some wonderful consumer sites which rate mail order companies:
Garden Watchdog: Gardener's Buying Guide
Plants by Mail
Catalog Database huge

I agree with the others, buying plants won't cost but a dollar more than buying an entire packet of seeds and they'll be ready to use immediately. I assume herb seeds in particular like their climate very warm to germinate. Here is a great source for seed germination info: Tom Clothier: Seed Germination Database

Rosemary is supposed to be particularly difficult to start from seed which is why it is most often started from cuttings.

When you bring them in for the winter, try purchasing a grow light. You can buy just the bulb which will fit into a regular light fixture or you can get the lightfixture and bulb for under $20 on up. Herbs need full direct sun and heat to thrive. For your oregano, in the fall I would take a division and plant it in a pot inside and leave the rest outside as I would with sage, thyme and mints and other perennials. The tops will die but the roots will over winter and come back with new foilage in the spring. My sage, oregano, thyme and mints are doing are all coming back well after the winter and having let them go dormant outside during the winter.

Another factor which may be affecting your plants in winter is over watering. This is the number one cause for death in house plants. The motabalism of plants slows in the winter so they don't need as much water. Herbs in particular like to "dry out" no matter what time of year.

There are so many cultivars of each type of plant. Find out what zone you're in and research what is hardy in your area. This will help tremendously as well. Scroll down here to locate your growing zone.

Next, look here to find out what will grow best in your zone, simply scroll down and select your categories:
Plants Database
Plant Selector
United States Department of Agriculture Plants National Database

Hope this helps!

:)
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks Cchiu!


I usually buy plants, this year I bought seeds for the pleasure of starting from scratch. I never thought it would be problematic.

Plants in garden centre will not be available for a few more weeks. However the grocery sells herbs in little container that can be kept fresh for a week or two. I'll see if they have thyme and rosemary plants.


I water my indorr plants about once a week, more often in summer. The outside plants get watered daily, and twice a day during heat wave.



P.S. I am in zone 5A.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #13 of 22
My plesure Isa,

I start veggie seeds from seed and have had good luck, it is very gratifying. Herbs I usually buy just because we can use some for cooking immediately.

If I really want something, and I can't find the seeds, I'll buy the plant if I run into it. Just got some purple tomatillos yesterday! I'm so excited!

Can't wait to start harvesting veggies!
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Purple tomatillos, it sounds deliciously exotic :lips:


I know you very interested in heirloom seeds, do you know how I can find some for small tomatoes or other veggies that grow well in containers? I'd really like to try something different this year.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #15 of 22
Sure thing Isa,

You can grow just about anything in containers if your container is big enough to keep the roots happy.

I would request catalogs. Often times they may indicate which are good for growing in containers and you can always inquire at the Vegetable Gardening forum to see if someone has personal experience growing a particular variety. I highly recommend the following heirloom vegetable sources:


Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Victory Seeds

Vermont Bean Seed Company

Abundant Life Seed Foundation

Seed Savers Exchange

Irish Eyes-Garden City Seeds

The Cook's Garden

Evergreen Seeds Asian Veggies

Pinetree Seeds

Rene's Garden Seeds

Willhite Seeds

Johnny's Selected Seeds


Here is a list of varieties which are particularly good for (though not necessarily heirloom) growing in containers:


Beans: Bush Romano, Bush Blue Lake, Tender Crop, Royal Burgundy, Henderson Bush, Jackson, Wonder Bush, Topcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, Bush Romano, Bush Blue Lake, Tender Crop, Lima:[/b] Henderson Bush, Jackson, Wonder Bush

Beets: Little Egypt, Early Red Ball, Asgrow Wonder,’ ‘Detroit Dark Red,’ ‘Greentop Bunching,’ ‘Monoking Burgundy, Red Ace, Little Egypt, Early Red Ball, Early Wonder, Detroit Dark Red, Boltardy, Burpee Golden

Broccoli: Green Comet, DeCicco, Green Comet, DeCicco, Spartan, Italian Green Sprouting

Brussels Sprouts: Jade Cross, Long Island Improved

Cabbage: Dwarf Morden, Red Ace, Early Jersey Wakefield, Dwarf Modern, Red Ace, Early Jersey Wakefield, Little Leaguer, Earliana, Copenhagen Market, Ruby Ball Hybrid, Red Head Hybrid

Carrots: Short & Sweet, Danvers Half Long, Tiny Sweet, Royal Chantenay,’ ‘Red Cored Chantenay,’ ‘Long Type Chantenay,’ ‘Danvers 126’ and ‘Orlando Gold, Baby Finger Nantes, Goldenhart, Little Finger, Royal or Red Cored Chantenay, Ox Hart, Baby Finger

Chinese Cabbage: Michihili, Burpee Hybrid, Michihili, Burpee Hybrid

Cucumbers:Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty, Patio Pik, Spacemaster, Pot Luck, Bush Whopper, Bush Champion, Burpee Hybrid, Salad Bush, Parks Burpless Bush, Burpless Early Pik, Patio Pik, Spacemaster, Pot Luck

Edible Flowers

Garlic Most Varieties

Green Onions:Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching

Herbs

Lettuce:Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb, Green Ice, Red Sails, Lolla Rosa, Buttercrunch, Nevada, Bibb, Parris Island Cos, Salad Bowl, Slobolt, Tendercrisp, Black-Seeded Simpson and Oakleaf, mustard cress, Salad Bowl, Ruby, Grand Rapids, Oak Leaf, Buttercrunch, Dark Green Boston, Little Gem, Bibb

Parsley:Evergreen, Moss Curled

Onions: White Sweet Spanish, Yellow Sweet Spanish

Radishes: Champion,’ ‘Red Prince,’ ‘Scarlet Globe, Cherriette, White Icicle,’ ‘Chinese Winter, April Cross, ‘Easter Egg, Red Flame, Cherry Belle, Icicle, Cherry Belle, Icicle, Champion, Scarlet Globe, Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, (White) Icicle

Spinach: Dark Green Bloomsdale

Peppers:Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, (Hot) Red Cherry, Jalapeno
Eggplant:[/b]Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom, Slim Jim, Ichiban, Slim Jim, Ichiban, Black Beauty, Modern Midget, Mission Bell, Small Ruffled Red, Thai Green, Bambino, Sweet Banana, Yolo Wonder, Long Red Cayenne, Sweet Banana, Valencia (Hybrid), Jackpot (Hybrid), Camelot, Jalapeno, Red Chili, Giant Thai, Super Cayenne II, Sweet Banana, Yolo Wonder, Long Red Cayenne, Bell Boy, Keystone Resistant, California Wonder, New Ace, Red Cherry, Long Red Cayenne, Jalapeno, Thai Hot

Squash:Dixie, Gold Neck, Early Prolific Straightneck, (Green) Zucco, Diplomat, Senator, Scallopini, Baby Crookneck, Creamy, Golden Nugget, Gold Rush, Zucchini (most varieties)

Tomatoes: Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Sweet 100 Patio, Burpee's Pixie, Toy Boy, Early Girl, Better Boy VFN, Agriset 761, Better Boy, Celebrity, Colonia, Mountain Fresh, Mountain Gold, Mountain Spring, Park’s Improved Whopper, Sunbeam, Solar Set, Sanibel, Captiva, Sunleaper, Suncrest, Sunrise, Sunpride, Terrific, Cherry Grande, Mountain Belle, Small Fry, Sweet 100, Peto Hybrid 882, Plum Dandy, Tropic, Caruso, Laura, Jumbo, Tropic, Vendor, Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Sweet 100, Patio, Burpee's Pixie, Toy Boy, Early Girl, Better Boy VFN, Pixie, Red Robin, Sugar Lump, Tumblin' Tom (hanging baskets), Patio, Pixie, Tiny Tim, Saladette, Toy Boy, Spring Giant, Tumbling Tom, Small Fry
post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
WOW! Thank you so much again Cchiu.


You gave me so many ideas, I'll definitly expand my garden this year. I didn't think cucumbers would grow in containers. I'll give them a try with eggplants and garlic.


I've never been lucky with peas and beans in containers. My previous balcony had lots of direct sunlight and it seems to burn them. On the other hands tomatoes and peppers grew like weeds.



Thanks again, I'll spend a nice evening going through all those links. :)
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 
Am I too late to start my vegetables from seeds Cchiu?
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
post #18 of 22
Sorry, I didn't see your last post until now. Tomatoes and peppers take the longest so it may be best to purchase plants.

Otherwise, go for it! Check the #days to harvest against your average frost dates. There are so many varieties out there, some are shorter than others. I'd ask someone at your local nursery. They're always happy to help and they'll have what grows well in your location.

Also, if you have access to foodtv.com, try to catch Martha Stewart's special called "Spring From Martha's Garden" at 4pm central time. She'll have segments on heirloom vegetables you may find extremely interesting.

Happy planting!
post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 
I put about 20 thyme seeds between two layers of paper towel in a poastic bag, it's been 4 days and so far about 4 seeds have shown signs of life. I put them in a pot with soil hoping they will grow. I covered the container with saran wrap and make sure there is humidity. I was told it would help.


I did the same thing with about 25 rosemary seeds and there is nothing. No sign of life at all. After reading everyone's advice I knew it would be hard but this is ridiculous.

Meanwhile, the sage I planted a few days ago is growing so fast, you can see them move. Same with chives. Oregano seems a bit more problematic, they grow very slowly but there are sign of life.

Cchiu, I found a local supplier of heirloom seeds, I should be able to get a selection in about 2 weeks. I can't wait to get started! Thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate it. :)
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
post #20 of 22
Isa, - Patience, Grasshopper!!! Different seeds germinate at different times; I've waited sometimes two weeks before cilantro (coriander) seeds have sprouted; same with carrots. My feeling is that rosemary takes a long time, because it's a 'woody' plant. Also, some of the herbs are really more warm weather oriented; they're just beginning to wake up! And four days is a pretty short time for thyme seeds (no pun intended!!).

I'd never grow rosemary from seed; I use so much, I just don't have the patience to wait for it to get big enough to use. Honestly, about the only seeds I plant anymore are basil, coriander, and sometimes parsley, although I'm even getting lazy at that.

When you have that plastic over the sprouts, watch it; if there's a lot of water condensing on top of the plastic, take it off and let the pot 'air out'. Remember, too much water can cause damping off.

Don't you ever wonder how anything lives in nature, if they're this picky when we try to control their growth!!!! I bet weed seeds don't have all these problems - although I never tried to plant dandelions!!!!

Keep on keepin on, Isa - it really is a learn as you go experience!
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post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
I haven't given up on those seeds Marmalady. On the other hand I'd be the first surprise if they sprout. ;)
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
Reply
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #22 of 22
Rosemary seed routinely germinates poorly. Even the highest quality available seed will germinate approximately 25% -30% in 14 to 28 days depending on soil and weather conditions, and this is for commercial growers which is why it's most commonly raised from cuttings. Home growers have less success.

There are some tricks that can increase your success with Rosemary.
Indoors- recommended planting method- Start seeds inside in flats 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost. Sow seeds on top of the growing medium, gently pressing them into the medium (as light is needed for germination.) Keep at low temperature, 55-60°F, until germination. If this is not possible, moisten and cover flat with plastic wrap to keep soil and seeds moist. Place flat in the refrigerator for 1 week, then move it to a place where it will be 70-75°F during the day and 55°F at night until germination. Transplant to individual containers when plants have 4 true leaves.

If you do not want to follow such strict instructions, you can eliminate the prechill and just plant the seeds on the top of the soil, barely press them in, and keep well watered until germination occurs.

Congrats on the heirloom supplier! Let us know what you find!

;)
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