A common misconception is that seeds are not living things. We typically classify things as living or non-living things based on whether they are growing or moving, and seeds don't seem to do either one of these things. However, a seed is an actively metabolic structure, which will only stay alive as long as it has available nutrients. If the seed runs out of food before conditions are ripe for germination, the seed will die. These conditions may pertain to the temperature, moisture, daylight, or even whether the seed received an adequate period in cold temperatures before germination. However, this process can be a lengthy one because a seed's metabolism is working at a very slow pace.
Some seeds have a much longer life expectancy because they are storing a greater amount of energy. Interestingly, the oldest seed on record to grow into a viable plant was a date palm seed that lived for about 2000 years and was uncovered from excavations of Herod the Great's palace in Israel.
So, as you prepare for the spring garden, consider the small yet mighty living thing that a seed is and take the extra step to store your unused seeds away from heat and moisture, which can drastically shorten their lives. You can also add a silica gel packet to your storage container to further lengthen your seeds' lives.
If you are considering growing plants from seed this year, consider these vendors for heirloom vegetables and native flowers:
If you would rather leave the work of germination to someone else, keep your eyes peeled for the RNC's seedling sale this spring!
—-Courtney Rothaus, Garden & Adult Education Coordinator