What to do in the Garden – March: Part 1 – Seeds, etc.

Tasks are starting to heat up in the gardening realm! This month we have a 2-part entry to keep up with reminders and ideas!


Are these seeds any good?

Ever wonder if those leftover seeds are still good? Chances are they are! The Old Farmer’s Almanac has the lowdown on seed viability:

“Seeds are living things and their viability is affected greatly by the way they are stored. Some seeds inherently have a longer life expectancy than others, too. Most last for a couple of years if stored in a dry, cool place. Consult the table below to see how long some of the most common garden seeds last.

How Long Do Seeds Last?
Replace after… Type of Seed
1 Year Lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, salsify
2 Years Corn, leeks, okra, peppers
3 Years Asparagus, beans, broccoli, carrots, celery, kohlrabi, peas, spinach
4 Years Beets, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, Swiss chard, eggplants, kale, pumpkins, radishes, rutabagas, squashes, tomatoes, turnips, watermelons
5 Years Cucumbers, endive, cantaloupes

Seed viability data gathered via Colorado State University Extension.

How to Tell If Your Seeds Are Still Good

If you have a question about the viability of some seeds, you can test a few.
This is as easy as placing ten seeds on a damp paper towel, folding it up, and placing it in a plastic bag. Put the bag in a warm spot and check after a week or so to see if any of the seeds have sprouted.

• If 2 out of 10 germinate, that means a germination rate of about 20%—not too good, so either plant more of them than usual or buy fresh seeds altogether.
• If 8 out of 10 germinate, that means 80%—not bad at all, and you can likely get away with using them for another season.”

Remember, germination rates vary, so you may not see results for longer than specified. Try giving them a generous 2 weeks before determining viability. The Seed Lending Library keeps some seed types for a few years after the production year. If you see this, it is because the seeds are still viable. Don’t be afraid to give them a try.

Neem Seed Meal, or, What Are Bad Nematodes?

My first garden here in Elmira seemed to have some decent topsoil, so I proceeded to plant a few things. It did not go well. Turnips were stunted, tomatoes blotched and unhealthy, and the beets never took off. I brought this up at a later date to a very bright and knowledgeable gardener, and she suspected I had nematodes, the bad ones. They sounded icky. And they are.

There are good nematodes and bad ones; the bad ones I allegedly had stunt root growth, making growing healthy plants all but impossible. All that work and TLC, and my efforts were thwarted by an invisible adversary. But, the bright and informed gardener had a defense; she recommended Neem Seed Meal.

This stuff makes the soil inhospitable to those microscopic critters, and encourages healthy root systems. Well, IT HELPED!! It wasn’t a perfect garden, but it improved by a lot! I suspect it will keep improving as I keep using this miracle substance!

If you experienced something similar, now’s the time to consider adding the stuff to your garden, while you are turning the soil. Check your local garden store or Amazon for availability.

Other Things to Do This Month:

~ Get the birdbath out and ready if it hasn’t been out all winter.
~ Weed/turn soil in garden beds.
~ Continue to enjoy seed and plant catalogs.

“A garden is half-made when it is well planned. The best gardener is the best one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey

Caroline Poppendeck, Librarian
Steele Memorial Library