How long do seeds last in storage? This question is best answered after we take a minute to talk about the best conditions for storing seeds.
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How long do seeds last in storage?
You will be surprised by the answer to the question. Most seeds with just minimal care will last for 3 to 5 years in storage. You can greatly increase storage times by storing them properly. This post will give you a timeline for how long each type of seed lasts in storage but before we talk about that let’s take a minute to cover the ideal conditions for storing seeds.
The Best way to store seeds
Ultimately the very best way to store seeds would be in an airtight container at roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity. A glass jar is a perfect solution. Before adding your seeds (in their packages) to the jar, put either some rice or powdered milk wrapped in a tissue at the bottom of the container. The rice or powdered milk acts as a desiccant (moisture absorber). You can then put the glass jar in your refrigerator to keep the seeds at 50 degrees or below.
So that is the “expert advice” on how to best store your seeds. And that advice will make your seeds last the longest. BUT . . . if your fridge is anything like ours you really don’t have room for 2 or 3 bottles full of seed packages.
So instead we use an old wooden Wine Box to store our seeds. You can read more about how we store and organize our seeds here. We just keep the box in a dark cool room in our basement and it seems to do fine. Really as long as you keep your seeds somewhere dry, cool, and dark they should be just fine and last for at least the times listed below.
How long do seeds last in storage?
Below is a list of each type of vegetable and flower seed and how long do seeds last in storage. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines. Your seeds may last longer or less than the times listed. I checked these times against my own 20 years of gardening experience and against times listed on a couple of different University websites (Utah and Oregon). You should find this to be a pretty good guideline.
Leeks, Okra, Onions, Parsley, and Sweet Corn
Asparagus, Beans, Carrots, Oriental Greens, Rutabagas, Swiss Chard, Pop Corn, and Peas also most Annual and perennial flower seeds
Beet, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Mustard, Collard, Kale, Pepper, and Tomato
Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Muskmelon, Pumpkin, Radish, Spinach, Squash, Turnip, and Watermelon
These rules hold pretty firm for how long seeds last in storage, whether the seeds were store-bought or were seeds that I saved myself from the garden. Most of these seeds will still be somewhat viable a year after the times listed above, but your germination rate will drop off significantly For the most part if I find seeds in my seed box that are older than 5 years I just get rid of them. 5 years seems to be the max, even under perfect conditions.
If you are in doubt about a seed’s viability you can always pre-sprout a few seeds from your old package. Simply place a few seeds inside of a few moist (not dripping wet) paper towels. Place the towels in an airtight container or zip-lock bag in a warm spot (70 to 75 degrees F) for 2 or 3 days. Keep the towels moist. If those seeds haven’t sprouted after 3 days they are most likely too old and need to be thrown out.