Are Last Year's Seeds Still Good?

comments (0) January 25th, 2012

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Ruth Ruth Dobsevage, member
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Photo by Mr. Thomas under the Creative Commons License 2.0Click To Enlarge

Photo by Mr. Thomas under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Every January, I take out my seed stash and my seed catalogs, spread them out on the dining table, and go through them both, category by category, to arrive at my seed order. I start with the seed packets. No need to order more of what I already have, unless the seeds are too old to germinate? How old is that? Well, it depends on two factors: storage conditions and type of seed.

For best results, vegetable seeds should be stored in sealed packets in a cool, dark, mouse-proof (don't ask) location. When it is time to plant, you can test your old seeds for viability first or simply wing it. Plant the old seeds and take your chances, but if it's something you really want to grow, buy a fresh packet anyway just to be on the safe side in case your experiment doesn't work out.

The chart below, from Seed for the Garden by Diane Relf and Alan McDanield of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University, lists the average number of years vegetable seeds may be saved, along with useful information on starting seeds indoors and outdoors, transplanting seedlings, and saving your own seeds.

Viability of Vegetable Seeds (average number of years seeds may be saved)
type years   type years
Asparagus 3   Leek 2
Bean 3   Lettuce 6
Beet 4   Muskmelon 5
Broccoli 3   Mustard 4
Brussels sprouts 4   Okra 2
Cabbage 4   Onion 1
Carrot 3   Parsley 1
Cauliflower 4   Parsnip 1
Celery 4   Pea 3
Chinese cabbage 3   Pepper 2
Collard 5   Pumpkin 4
Corn, sweet 2   Radish 5
Cress, water 5   Rutabaga 4
Cucumber 5   Spinach 3
Eggplant 4   Squash 4
Endive 5   Tomato 4
Kale 4 4   Turnip 4
Kohlrabi 3   Watermelon 4


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