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How Long Do Seeds Last?

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How Long Do Seeds Last?

You can feel it in the air. Spring is just around the corner. So you brush off those gardening supplies and start to plan your garden. But wait a minute. How long have those seeds been in those packets? Are they still good? How long do seeds last?

Discover everything you need to know about how long seeds last in packets, including how to store vegetable seeds and how to test for seed viability.

Related: The Beginners Guide to Starting a Garden (Even When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing!)

How Long Vegetable Seeds Last

Most vegetable seeds will stay good for about 2 or 3 years. However, some seeds can lose their viability in just one year, while others can still grow even if they’ve been in storage for 5 years. Here’s a table that lists common garden plants and how long their seeds can survive when properly stored.

VegetableStorage YearsVegetableStorage Years
Brussels Sprouts4Onion1
Fennel4Swiss Chard4
Green Beans3Tomato4

How to Store Vegetable Seeds

The best way to make sure your seeds last as long as possible is to store them properly. Whether you’ve purchased your seeds or you’re saving them from what you’ve already grown in your garden, you should follow these steps to keep them fresh until you’re ready to plant them:

  1. Make sure your seeds are completely dry before you store them. I typically leave my seeds resting on a paper towel in the windowsill for a few days to dry them out.
  2. Once your seeds are dry, place them in a seed storage envelope. Label the envelope with the type of seed and the year.
  3. Keep the envelopes stored in an airtight container.
  4. Store the container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Related: The Best Vegetable Plants to Grow in Pots

How to Test for Seed Viability

If you have some seeds that are a few years old, you might be wondering if they’ll still grow. Fortunately, it’s easy to test for viability. A few weeks before you plan on starting your seeds, gather the following materials and use these steps to test your seeds.

Supplies You Will Need:
Testing for Seed Viability:
  1. Moisten an entire paper towel so that it’s damp but not dripping wet.
  2. Place your seeds in a row near the bottom of the paper towel.
  3. Fold the paper towel over the seeds so they’re completely covered.
  4. Place the paper towel and seeds in the plastic bag and seal it. Use the marker to write the date on the bag. If you’re testing more than one type of seed, write the seed type on the bag as well so you don’t mix them up.
  5. Place the bag somewhere warm and sunny. (A windowsill, in a greenhouse, outside, etc.)
  6. Check the paper towel daily to make sure it doesn’t dry out. If it does, re-moisten it with a spray bottle.
  7. After 10 days, gently unroll the paper towel and see how many seeds have germinated. If more than half have germinated, your seeds are still viable and ready to plant.

You don’t have to waste any test seeds that germinated. While the roots will often grow through the paper towel and become impossible to separate, you can simply cut the paper towel between the seeds carefully transfer them to a seed starting pot. The paper towel will quickly rot away and the seeds can continue to grow.

Related: The Best Vegetable Plants That Grow in Shade

Guide to Seed Life

While seeds don’t last forever, they can last for several years when you properly store them. Now that you know how long seeds last, you’re ready to plant what you have in storage and get your garden growing!

More Helpful Gardening Tips

Now that you’ve learned more about how long seeds last, are you interested in discovering even more helpful gardening tips? Then please be sure to check out a few of our other popular posts:

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