Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:37 am

I found a stash of flower seeds from 1962, and vegetable seeds from 1968.
They were in a hall closet, still in the box Burpee sent them in !
The seeds I can see look fine to me. The only disappointment I have in the find is that there are no tomato seeds...oh well.

The first question I have is obvious. Will they grow ?
Secondly, if they do, how can I save some of the harvest for seed to grow next season should I like the variety?

Here's what I found:

FLOWER SEEDS: (all are unopened and from Fredonia, Asgro or American Seed Co.)

Candytuft; Calendula (pacific beauty); Forget Me Not (chinese blue); Bachelor's Button (double); Coleus; Sweet William; Carnation (chabaud giant); Morning Glory (heavenly blue); Cosmos (sensation); Spencer Sweet Peas; Celosia (toreador/cockscomb); Scabiosa (giant); Zinnia (super giant); Sazvia (tall bonfire)1969.

Some of the packets are labeled "TREATED WITH CHLORANIL DO NOT FEED".

VEGETABLE SEEDS: (some opened, some not)
Beet: Redhart; Red Ball; White
Carrot: Half-Long Nantes; Gold Pak.
Cantelope: Crenshaw-early hybrid; Hybrid.
Onion: Yellow Globe Hybrid.
Radish: Cherry Belle: White; Sparkler.
Lettuce: Bibb.
Swiss Chard: Fordhook Giant.
Watermelon: Fordhook Hybrid; New Hampshire Midget.
Pumpkin: Small Sugar; Big Max.
Pole Lima Bean; Burpees Best.
Bush Beans: Improved Tendergreen; Tender Pod; Stringless Green-Pod; Brittle Wax.
Sweet Corn: Golden Beauty Hybrid; Barbecue Hybrid.
American Seed Co.:
Butternut Squash; American Wonder Peas.

We plowed about 12 acres or more when I was a teen. We filled 4 huge chest freezers, and a pantry not including the stuff we gave away to family and friends or ate fresh. I didn't really pay attention though. I saw the work as keeping me away from the girls at the swimmin hole! I just did what Mom & Pop told me to do....ugh. I can still hear that JD L goin putt putt ! I like dabbling in gardening now, but don't have much real knowledge in this area. Anybody have any advice? How about knowledge or memories of the different varieties listed? Perhaps some of the ladies will have something to share about the post as well?

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy post but I know I am in the right place for asking questions and getting help !

Thanks, Marion

Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:53 am

It seems to me that I had heard of archeologist's finding seeds in old clay containers before that were thousands of years old and when planted, they grew. I'll bet if you google "old seeds" or something like that you'll find out all you ever wanted to know about the subject.

Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:03 am

Since it sounds like they were stored in a dry location, the seeds should still be viable. You may not get a great germination rate, but you should get something. Saving the seed from any hybrid variety will not do you any good, as they will revert to whatever original stock they were bred from. I'm guessing that most of the seed you have are hybrids. Good luck.

Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:46 am

Do a germination test. Put a few of each seed,in damp paper towels. See if any sprouts appear.(within 1-2 weeks) If nothing sprouts, throw them out. If a few sprout, you can plant the rest, in the garden. I wouldn't depend on them, for a crop,without testing. If you want to get fancy, test 10 of each seed, and you can calculate the percentage of germination, by the number that sprout. Ed

Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:14 pm

If you just want to see if anything will grow from them, plant them in 1 area of the garden if you have room,---BUT as Don stated dont expect anything from them!---We had some from 5 years ago and most of them did not grow!--they were well kept but lost the ability to sprout!
Personally I wouldnt waste the time on them!-- good luck! thanks; sonny

Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sun Mar 21, 2010 2:15 pm

Purdue University did a study to see how long weed seeds remain viable. Example..cocklebur..They would still grow after being in storage for over 25 years. Soybeans do very poorly after only two years. I guess it varies by plant types. If there are a few you would really like to save seed from, then try it. You can save seed unless it says "hybred" on the package. Most seed from the 60's and even today are open pollinated. But for raising a crop, I agree with Sonny, get new seed.

Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:55 pm

I think they will grow just fine. If they were in a cool dry place.I have been saving seeds from year to year and they do very well. Let us know how they turn out. :)

Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:09 am

I can't get grass seed to germinate well even after a year.

But I'd be real interested in the flower and fruit of your seeds to see if it is different from today. Maybe contact Burpee. They may have an interest in wanting the seed back for their own genetics. Perhaps back then the seed was resistant to different disease or weather conditions than what the are selecting for now.

I worked about 10 years (as a slave) for Pioneer seed corn at a breeding station. They have stored corn seed from over 70 years ago that they occasionally cross back in with the current hybrids for some specific trait from years ago that they want.


Re: Old seeds...REALLY OLD SEEDS !

Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:31 pm

I did contact Burpee, I got the following reply.

Dear Gardner:

Thank you for your email. The only way to see if the seed is still viable is to take a paper towel and wet it, sprinkle a few seed on the towel, roll the towel up, put it in a plastic bag,keep it on your counter top for a few days, unroll it and see if the seed have germinated. We do get lots of letters from customers who have located old seed in a parents house. This is always a pleasant surprise.
Customer Service
W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

I do intend to try and see if they will germinate. I have plenty of starter soil and plastic trays to try them in. If they don't grow, I can still use the soil mix for another gardening project.

Is this going to label me as a mad scientist ? :lol: