Using Old Garden Seed


As we watch prices increase for many items, being able to save money is always exciting. If you’re browsing seed catalogs as you plan for next year’s garden, here are some guidelines to help you know the shelf-life of certain vegetable seeds.

The length of time a seed remains viable depends on the variety as well as storage conditions. The included chart gives average storage time for common garden vegetables if they are maintained in proper conditions.

Seeds should be stored in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight. For short-term storage, freezing is not necessary, but a refrigerator could be used if a cool room, such as a basement, is not available. Seeds must be adequately dried prior to storing or they may sprout prematurely or rot. Storing the seeds in a spot where the temperature and humidity are consistent is preferred. If the seeds will be stored in an area that remains cool and dry, they can be saved in a paper bag or envelope. However, glass or metal containers will protect seeds from predators including rodents and insects.

To determine if seeds are still viable, place ten on a moist paper towel. Cover the seeds with a second moist paper towel. Roll the towels together and seal in a plastic bag that has several holes poked in it. Keep the bag in a warm location adding more water to the towels to maintain moisture. Check for germination after one week. Remove seeds that have sprouted and place the others back in the bag. Check again after another week. Determine the germination rate based on the percent of total seeds that sprouted.

Cynthia Domenghini, Extension Agent



Vegetable Crop  Average Seed Viability (years) 
Arugula 6
Beans 2-4
Beets 2-5
Broccoli 3-5
Brussels Sprouts 3-5
Cabbage 3-5
Carrots 3-5
Cauliflower 4-5
Celery 3-5
Collards 4-6
Sweet Corn 1-3
Cucumber 3-6
Eggplant 4-6
Kale 3-5
Kohlrabi 3-5
Lettuce 4-6
Melon 3-6
Okra 2-3
Onions 1-2
Parsnip 1-3
Peas 2-4
Peppers 2-5
Pumpkins 4-6
Radish 4-5
Rutabaga 3-5
Soybean 3-5
Spinach 1-5
Squash 3-6
Swiss Chard 2-5
Tomato 3-7
Turnip 4-5


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