Every now and then I put in a burst of growing radishes for salads. Haven't done it for a while, so a short while ago I planted out my fast-growing radish seeds ... and then nothing happened. Nothing at all. Zero, zilch.
Now that is not how radishes usually perform. They're the Speedy Gonzales of the vegie beds, sprouting quickly and ready for harvest a few weeks later. And so I went back to the shed, picked up the seed packet, flipped it over and discovered that my French Breakfast radish seeds were exactly one whole year past their use-by date!
As Homer Simpson would say: Doh!
So then I did a stocktake of my tin full of seed packets, searching for old-timers whose use-by date was up. I am a bit embarrassed to report this folks, but if you include all the seeds whose use-by date is right now, August 2015, about one-third of all my seed packets were tossed into the rubbish bucket in my shed.
If you didn't know there was such a thing as use-by dates for seeds, you do now. Some seeds last for ages (I think the record is a couple of thousand years for certain varieties of sacred lotus) but in the vegie kingdom it's normal for seeds to last anywhere from two to five years, depending on the plant type. I'm not sure how accurate this chart is, but it gives you some idea.
Most reputable seed companies stamp the use-by date on the back of their packets. The oldest one here is for 2012/13, and the others you can see here are all stamped August 2014, one whole year out of date.
Seeds beyond their use-by date might still sprout, but don't be surprised if they don't. That's what the use-by date is all about: the reliability of seeds sprouting. If you are a committed economiser (with the emphasis on 'miser'), and you still want to have a go at sowing your past-their-use-by-date seeds, my advice would be to sow all of the rest of the packet. Some will probably come up, I hope. And good luck!
However, I really do want to grow some radishes, so once I finish this blog posting I'm off to the garden centre to buy some nice, fresh radish seeds.