Sorry, having a Tears for Fears moment. Anyway, as we wait patiently for progress in the garden (I will follow up very shortly with the progress and some photos) I wanted to talk about preserving the investment you make in buying and growing from seed.
While less expensive than buying seedlings, often the expense of starting seeds (peat pots, seed starting systems, etc.) can get out of hand. However, if you stick with it for more than one year, you get the return on your investment. One way to ensure a better return is to use leftover seeds for more than one year.
Seed packets purchased now will have a date stamped on the packet for the 2009 harvest. That would lead one to believe that if you do not use all the seeds in that growing season that you will have to buy more next season. This is not true. Most seeds are designed for at least three years of germination. Some heirloom and even hybrid varieties will go even longer. The key is proper storage and labeling.
For this years seeds, I used an inexpensive plastic storage container with a locking lid that I had purchased a few of for other purposes. This can be used year after year with proper marking and storage. Once you start and plant all of the seeds for the growing season, sort the seeds into categories or varieties, mark the box with a label or even just a Sharpie pen (you can either cross out or even remove the mark later and relabel).
Store the seeds in a cool dry place (in a cabinet or dry basement) for the best results. As always, conduct a germination test before direct sowing any seed into the ground by taking a sample of seeds and sprout them in a plastic bag with damp paper towel to determine how viable the seeds are. If you have older seeds, this is a must.
By properly storing your seeds, you will have to buy less for the next growing season, extending and reducing your investment and increasing your gardening satisfaction!