In previous posts, we’ve offered great tips for collecting seeds, saving seeds, sowing seeds, and even ordering seeds. But, if the question “how long do seeds last?” is on your mind, this article will offer you some answers.
Before I look at a single seed catalog, I take inventory of all the seeds I already have on hand, sorting them first by age. All seed packets are stamped with the year they were packed. This date is important because many seeds loose viability as they age. If you want to plant only seeds that will have exceptional germination rates, you’ll need to know how many years each variety can be stored. As I sort through my box of seed packets from previous years, I pitch any that are past their prime. Here’s the basic roadmap I use when sorting through all those leftover seed packets.
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How long do seeds last? A helpful list
Seeds that remain viable for up to 5 years:
Most annual and perennial flowers
Watermelons, muskmelons, and cantaloupes
Up to 4 years:
Pumpkins and gourds
Up to 3 years:
All types of beans and peas
Up to 2 years:
Up to 1 year:
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Checking germination rates
If you’re not sure how old a seed is, either because the packet isn’t dated or because you’ve stored them in another type of unmarked container, test their viability before planting. Place ten seeds on a damp paper towel. Fold the paper towel over the seeds and put in a plastic, zipper-top baggie. Place the baggie on top of the fridge, and in ten days, open the paper towel and count how many seeds have germinated. This is the germination rate. If less than six seeds germinated (a rate below 60%), the seeds may not be worth planting. But, if more than six seeds sprouted, go ahead and use the seeds.
The answer to the question “How long do seeds last?” may take a little investigation, but taking the time to answer it will save you both time and money.