What is it about about seed packets that makes it easy for us to put them away and forget about them? Their small size and their seasonality and the fact that they are relatively cheap, the many tempting varieties, and the results so bountiful that there is never space for all the seedlings. And so those little packets with their enticing photos and descriptions get put away for another year….
Or, as with tomatoes, I take out and sow a few every year and keep the rest. One of my oldest and most treasured seeds were these French tomatoes called ‘Noire de Coseboeuf’, bought in 1993 and produced by an organic farm called Ferme de Ste. Marthe, when organic growing and strange heirlooms were still unknown to most people.
These tomatoes proved super easy to grow and turned out to be the most fascinating deeply-indented chocolate brown freaks. No two are alike and their shape makes them rather challenging to slice, but the taste is rich and wonderful, and the plants start bearing quite early in the season and keep on and on. Even the flowers look different and double and it became a tradition to have a few plants of these every summer .
I saved a good quantity of seeds from the last crop, but somehow must have they gotten lost or mislabelled . When tomato sowing time came around this year, I looked inside the now folded and refolded packet and there were were the last five seeds!
Obviously a special effort was called for and as usual a trawl of the internet was the place to start. A search through all the fascinating gardening forums out there turned up some hints. Soaking, weak tea and a bit of nitrogen seemed to be recurrent themes, so I duly soaked various tomato seeds in weak tea with a bit of seagro for a few hours and planted them in trays which were put on a heating pad.
Three days later one was up! Not the frenchie but incredibly, that peeked out two days later. Only the one so far, but I hope more will sprout. Apparently the tannin in tea softens the seed coat, the soaking obviously hydrates the seed, and the plant food supplies nitrate ions- just repeating what the clever people say here.
Anything could still happen to my precious seedling from a 20 year old seed! It is being tenderly carried out every morning for sunshine and fresh air like an invalid and tucked in over the heating mat at night. As soon as there are four leaves it will go into a small pot, then a larger, and with a bit of luck we will have our favourite tomatoes again this summer. Seed will definitely be saved and passed on this time! I am also testing the technique on some other old seeds from similarly enticing acquisitions that have been hanging around for too long.
And lastly I have resolved to go through my seeds regularly and sow and share them before they become old and difficult!