Seeds forum: Anyone suggestions for extending the viability of onion seeds?

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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Jan 29, 2012 1:37 PM CST
Sigh, all my onion seeds are over 2 years old and they just won't sprout at that age. I wanted to get an early start on some green onions, but now it's obvious I need to go find some fresh seeds. Anyone have any bright ideas on how to make those little rascals keep longer?
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
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kqcrna
Jan 29, 2012 5:27 PM CST

Moderator

Not me, sorry. I'm not much of a veggie grower. But IME wintersowing with all the exposure to rain and snow and fluctuating temps encourages a lot of stubborn seeds to overcome their dormancy. If you're going to throw your seeds away anyway, you might stick them in a jug, stick outside, and see what happens.

According to this site onion seeds are only good for a year or two.
http://westsidegardener.com/guides/faq_seeds.html

Probably best to buy a small amount, cheap. Pinetree sells some for as little as $1.25/pack.
https://www.superseeds.com/products.php?cat=119
Or maybe you could find them cheap at Walmart or some other cheap place.

Karen
Name: Allison
NJ (Zone 6a)
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Onewish1
Jan 29, 2012 8:56 PM CST

Moderator

me either sorry
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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woofie
Jan 29, 2012 9:41 PM CST
Well, I know I'm stuck with buying seeds this year; I was just hoping someone might have an idea to extend the life of the ones I'm going to buy. I'd save seeds, but I've never had those "bunching onions" go to seed so far. sigh. Seems such a waste.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Jonna
Belgium, Europe (Zone 6a)
Sedums Winter Sowing Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Belgium Region: Europe
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JonnaSudenius
Jan 30, 2012 1:45 PM CST
Onion seeds are longer viable, but if not sown in autumn after harvest , they almost always need a warm/cold/warm period, so germination will take much more time.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Jan 30, 2012 1:49 PM CST
Ah, do you mean I should stuff them in the refrigerator for a while?
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Jan 30, 2012 4:12 PM CST

Moderator

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it means you should wintersow them Hilarious!

I'm confused. Woffie, are you talking now about preserving new seeds you might buy? If so, some people do say that refrigerating seeds prolongs their viability but I can't vouch for that either way. I don't refrigerate my seeds.

Or, are you still talking about trying to germinate the old seeds? In that case, I'd say wintersow them and see what happens. Nothing to lose, since they won't germinate in the house. What's your weather like now?

Karen
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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woofie
Jan 30, 2012 4:31 PM CST
Ha ha, you wintersowers are all alike! Green Grin! "Throw 'em out in the yard and see what happens." Rolling on the floor laughing Sorry, I'm too much of a control freak. Hilarious!

No, actually I was mostly looking for suggestions on ways to extend the shelf life of the new seeds we just got. I like to start things early in the GH, and was thoroughly annoyed when those 2-year old seeds (oops, maybe they really were 3 years old!) didn't sprout.

Oh well, might as well toss those old seeds out in the garden and see what happens, eh? Snow is turning to slush and ice here right now, but I'm sure there's more of that white stuff to come!
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Jan 30, 2012 4:58 PM CST

Moderator

For best results, a covered container with top and bottom openings. The container with lid retains moisture, increasing germination. Milk jugs, cut to form a hinge, are my favorite. They're duct taped shut in winter, open after germination.
Thumb of 2012-01-30/kqcrna/fb599e

Come on, Woofie, it'll be a new garden adventure.

But you're right, we wintersowers are all alike. You might like this current thread on the GW WSing forum- and notice the post about old leek seedsl Like I said, there's nothing better than WSing to overcome dormancy.
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/wtrsow/msg012106379...

Karen
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Jan 30, 2012 5:33 PM CST
Well, since we generally have snow here through May, if I can find a suitable container for those seeds, I'll just do that little thing. Hey, I love green onions! I tried WS once before using those gallon plastic jugs, but the darn things dried out! Obviously I'm doing something wrong. Confused
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Jan 30, 2012 5:51 PM CST

Moderator

Well, yes... living things do need water Woofie. If Mother Nature doesn't water them, you're supposed to do it!

Karen
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Jan 30, 2012 6:12 PM CST
Hey, I watered them, covered them up and stuck them out in the snow.....where they were buried. Hard to water something if you can't find it! Hilarious!
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Jan 30, 2012 6:26 PM CST

Moderator

No cap on the jugs, right? If so, rain and snow water them in winter. But in spring, sometimes human intervention is necessary if there's no rain.

Karen
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Jan 30, 2012 6:28 PM CST
No caps, and they still dried out over the winter. Pretty weird, huh? Freeze-dried, I guess. Hilarious!
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Jan 30, 2012 6:31 PM CST

Moderator

Hmmm....

Joanne did a nice thread on wintersowing, too.
The thread "How-To Wintersow" in Winter Sowing forum

Karen
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Jan 30, 2012 6:40 PM CST
Oh, are we control freaks? I knew I must be a micro-manager because I love to hover and mess with them ...

Realistically, "buy more seed" and have to pay the S&H every year or two may be the most practical advice. But that's not much fun!

If onions are like Bok Choy, they may bolt to seed more readily if you plant a few at the worst time for them, instead of the optimium time. Too hot or too cold. Or stress them in other ways after they have grown a little: withhold water, or chop a lot of leaves off. Dis them verbally, or play loud rap music to them.

I can't say this from personal experience, but reading suggests that most seeds last longer if stored very dry, dark, and cool. Consistency of low humidity and temperature perhaps helps too.

My theory is that "on a shelf" in the fridge exposes them to the risk of condensation when doors open and close, so I store some seeds in a sealed jar in the fridge.

Many will say that's unecessary for most vegetable seeds, that they store some seeds in totally uncontrolled areas in open paper bags for years. I have no experience with that.

I may go too far by storing seeds in a sealed jar with silica gel dessicant in the jar. Indeed, using too much dessicant with too few seeds, sealed too long, might dry them out TOO much!

I use a humidity card be be sure the RH doesn't go below 10% for long, and the seeds are in sealed Ziplocs inside the jar, so they fluctuate even less. Each Ziploc has a paper label inside it, which buffers or evens out any humidity changes - paper holds humidity.

Now that I think about it, I'm going to add "Salvia" to the seeds I treat that way, and wrap the jar in something to keep it dark. They are also supposed to have short shelf lives, yet I WANT to keep them for years.

(Salvia might respond to Giberellic acid (GA-3) to "perk up" overage perennial flower seeds with dormancy issues. But would that help over-age onion seeds? I'm guessing "no".

>> if not sown in autumn after harvest , they almost always need a warm/cold/warm period,

I hope Jonna is right, and they have just gone into a stubburn dormancy. Maybe a few 6-packs with moist vermiculite in a bag or under plastic film, on the porch or in a fridge for a week or two, then indoors for a week or two, and repeat?



Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Jan 30, 2012 6:57 PM CST
Just for the heck of it, I may try that cold, warm, cold, warm treatment. I did that (following instructions) with Alstroemeria seeds and nearly all of them sprouted. Besides, it appeals to my little micro-managing soul. Green Grin!
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jan 30, 2012 7:39 PM CST
One year very early in my seed-sprouting career, I tried starting some seeds in trays becuase the seed packet looked pretty. Around half came up, which was pretty good for me at that time.

Later I learned that that species "needs" stratification. If I had known that then, I wouldn't even have tried!

Penstemon, on the other hand, does need long cold-moist stratification PLUS patience, if my failures and one success mean anything. That was the only WS success I had, the first year I tried. Everyone likes what works for them.

Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
Image
woofie
Jan 30, 2012 7:54 PM CST
That's funny, Rick! I had something similar happen when I tried growing dwarf columbines from seed. First ones I tried, I got about 50% germination. When I found out they needed stratification, I couldn't get those little rascals to sprout on a bet! I still have a package of white ones that just refuse to grow!

Oh, and darn you. Now I'll never get another penstemon seed to grow for me! I didn't know they required stratification! Sigh. Rolling my eyes.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jan 30, 2012 9:42 PM CST
My SO swears that our attitudes poison or assure our accomplishments.

My apologies for ruining Penstemon for you! When I bought a packet, the clerk at the nursery told me it was talking her years ... so of course it is taking me years.

No, I know! The varieties that I was trying to start required stratification. Not yours.

Hopefully that will take the curse off.

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