Gardening for You What you want to learn about seeds when planning your backyard


Ellen Peffley
| Lubbock Avalanche Journal

Buyers pay attention to the expiration dates when buying milk or packaged food. Seeds are also durable. Valuable information is printed on seed packets. Look for “packed for the 2021 season”.

Seed packet labels should have the following:

• Name of the seed company

• Type and diversity

• Number or weight of seeds

• Seed treatment, treated or untreated (more below)

• Batch number. Identifies the origin.

• Days to germination. Usual number of days for seedlings to emerge.

• Days to Due. Usual number of days until harvest.

• Optimal temperature for the germination and establishment of the seeds.

• Plant spacing. Distance between plants for optimal growth; usually in inches.

Use saved seeds

It is not uncommon for seeds to be left over from previous seasons, and gardeners wonder if seeds can still be planted. Often such seeds will remain viable, but the useful life of the seeds will depend on the type of seeds and the conditions under which the seeds have been stored. Optimal storage conditions are cool, dark and dry.

Determine the viability of the rescued seed with a germination test: place 10 seeds on a damp paper towel; Roll a towel into a cigar; put in a plastic bag with a zipper; Put the bag in a warm place. After two days, check the towel and count the number of seeds with the radical (first) root extending from the seed coat.

Some seeds have more vigor and germinate quickly, while other seeds may linger for a few days. At 70 degrees, the beet should germinate in one day; Lettuce, two to three; Radish and cabbage, three to five; Onion and spinach, five; Carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes, six; Beans, eight; Paprika, 12; Parsley and Parsnip, 14. To calculate the percentage of germination, divide the number of seeds germinated by the total. If 5 out of 10 seeds germinate, the germination percentage is 50%. hence double plant.


It is expected that some common vegetables with a normal number of years of seeds will remain viable under optimal conditions: onion, parsley, and parsnip will retain 50% viability for a year; Beans, carrots and spinach, three years; Tomatoes, squash, beets and cabbage, four years; Cucumber, five; and lettuce, six years.

Seed treatments

• Treated. Seeds coated with fungicide to protect against pathogens; treated seeds usually have a colored coating to distinguish them from untreated seeds and should never be used for consumption.

• Untreated. Seeds cleaned without chemical treatment.

• Bio. Untreated seeds, grown and cleaned under conditions from controlled organic cultivation.

Note: Some information from Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers; National Garden Bureau

Remember that warning from last summer

Unlabeled, unsolicited, suspicious seeds appeared in mailboxes in seed packages that did not meet the USDA specifications defined above. USDA investigated with Department of Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security and state departments of Agriculture; Seeds can be invasive species, and when introduced into American agriculture it can cause incalculable damage to the environment or human health ( NEVER plant seeds of unknown origin.

Ellen Peffley taught college horticulture for 28 years, 25 of them at Texas Tech. During this time she developed two types of onions. She is now the sole owner of From the Garden, a nursery farmette. You can email her at