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store the rest. By planting just a pinch of seeds instead of a whole packet, you can save a lot of money by saving the excess seeds for next years crop, and the next years, and so on. Some seeds will last up to five years. Seed companies guarantee that a certain percentage will sprout; this number is always very high, usually up into the nineties. Of course the seed industry wants you to buy a fresh packet of seeds every year so they can stay in business. There's nothing wrong with that! But there's also nothing wrong with saving money with a more efficient system.


A SEED S SIZE AND SHAPE The other interesting thing about seeds is their shapes and sizes. Why are seeds different sizes and different shapes? That's a fascinating inquiry into nature you could make with your kids. Quite often their shape depends on how they were formed or nestled together in the seedpod. Does the size and shape have anything to do with their ability to sprout? Yes and no. In general, the smaller the seed the more delicate it is as a young plant and the greater the care it needs to successfully germinate and grow. The size quite often depends only on the plant species itself.

How to Store Seeds

What is the ideal storage condition for seeds? It is just the opposite of the moisture and warmth that make them sprout. You'll want to store them in a cool, dry place—the driest, coldest place in your home. Some people freeze their seeds. But I find they get moisture even if they are in a zip-lock bag because it never seems to be totally airtight. I prefer refrigerating them in a wide-mouth jar with a screw lid. Label your containers and store them in the refrigerator on a back shelf. In each jar place a desiccant packet from a film container, or medicine vial, or add a little powdered milk wrapped in a tissue to soak up any excess moisture in the jar.

Germination Rate

What happens to seeds that are in storage? As they grow older, their germination rate (the percentage that sprouts under ideal conditions) gradually diminishes. But the solution is very simple. Plant a pinch of seeds—just two to three—instead of only one to ensure that at least one will sprout. If your seeds are many years old, test the germination rate yourself or just plant three or five or however many seeds depending on how well they sprouted the year before. If you marked the sprouting rate on the packet, you can reasonably estimate how many to plant the next year.

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Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

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