I started seed trials on February 7th, not because I was bored with winter, although I was, but because this year I wanted to weed out some of my old seed collection before I ordered new seeds. Many old seeds were easy to eliminate, but I decided to test these seeds for germination before I tossed them and ordered replacements. The moschata squash seeds were a gift from a gardening friend, and I'm sure are more than 5 years old. The sweet peas were from 2007. The watermelon and asparagus beans were from 2008. The Nicotiana seeds were saved from the garden and marked with the kind of seed, but unfortunately had no date. A zip lock bag and a wet paper towel were my low tech choice for this seed trial.
By February 15th, two the squash, two watermelon and all four asparagus beans were showing root growth. I slipped samples from the bag for their photo opp. The sweet pea seeds had swollen a bit, but that was all. I found it intriguing to see the seeds sending out their roots like a snail sticking his head out of his shell. I've planted hundreds of seeds waiting for them to emerge, but for the first time I had a close look at exactly what the seeds were doing. It is magical!
One week later on February 22, this watermelon seed has developed a root system and seed leaves have almost pushed the seed casing aside. The moschata seeds were the same. One of the sweet peas had germinated and the others looked promising.
Tiny Nicotiana seeds on the wet paper towel show absolutely no change so they are headed for the compost. The others did well on their test so seed will be saved for this year's spring planting. For a brief moment, I was tempted to plant the tiny watermelon and squash plants in a pot. They looked so cute, but June 1 is our usual frost safe date here. That's about 90 days away, about the same as our entire frost free growing season. Squash or watermelon seedlings potted up now would be as large as the dining room table before they could be safely planted outside. It is a hard choice but these small plants must be composted.
The iris insata seeds are doing better. Eight of the twelve seeds planted February 1st emerged. All will remain in the large pots in the south facing window until they can be safely transplanted outside. Their early inside start may allow them to bloom a year earlier than the seeds planted outside last fall. In two or three years we will know for sure.