How long are seeds good for? Advice from the ThriftyFun community.
Different seeds have different lifespans. I am sure if you go on the Organic Gardening site and search for "Viability of Seeds" they will probably have the info you need.
You know, archaeologists unearthed some ancient magnolia seeds from a Japanese tomb some years ago, and on a whim, tried planting them. They sprouted and turned out to be a previously extinct form of magnolia. So in my opinion, seeds can stay viable for a long time, given that they're kept in a suitable environment for storage. Whether that means keeping them in the refrigerator or just on a dark shelf, I don't know. I'd guess it depends on the seeds. (I know some need to "winterize" before they'll germinate) I do know that I found an old packet of pumpkin seeds last year that was several years old, decided to toss them out in the back yard, and ended up with 10 amazing pumpkins! It can't hurt to try tossing them out into a bed just to see what happens, right? :)
By Beth - MA
You can do a viability test. It is very easy, take a dampened paper towel and on this paper towel you need to place 10 seeds. Take the paper towel, fold it over and place in a Ziploc bag. Seal the bag and put it on top of the refrigerator, wait 3 or 4 days and then take down the bag and check. If none have sprouted, give it another 2 or 3 days and check again and see if anything has sprouted.
If 8 out of the 10 seeds sprouted, you have an 80% of viability. If 2 seeds out of the 10 sprouted you have 20% viability. This way you will know to increase the amount of seeds you want to plant.
Do not waste the seeds you have sprouted, you can always put them in pots and wait till they get to be a decent size and then plant or them in the garden.
Some seeds can be stored for a long time, 50 years even, but you have to keep them in a controlled temperature. At our University here in Saskatchewan at Saskatoon, they keep seeds in paper packets at 4C and 20% humidity. For long term storage, they keep them at -18C. They are keeping heritage varieties of grains and other seeds for a gene bank and for research. For your regular garden seeds, it would seem to me that you could pop them into your freezer, your fridge, or keep them in a cool dry place. I have successfully kept regular garden seeds for 3 or 4 years, if I have more than I need in any one year. I just keep mine in a box on a closet shelf in a cool room.
Post your ideas below.
By Linda Kulaw (Guest Post) 11/08/2007 Flag
Some seeds last 5 years, some last 50 years, and some a shorter or longer amount of time. It depends on how well you care for the seeds, the environment you store them in, and the condition seeds are in at planting time. Seeds can be stored in a dry sealed container in the freezer or in a dry sealed darkened environment (like a sealed dry seed packet stored in a metal tin placed in a dark cabinet). The condition is that you do not want the seeds to get moisture, humidity, or exposure to sunlight. Do not ever take the whole seed packet outside in the garden if you plan on saving some of the seeds for a later planting date. Take out what you will plant for the garden, then store the other seeds in a safe environment immediately to protect until they will be used. [Seeds exposed to sunlight may not germinate well or at all if stored until a later planting date.] You can test the seeds for germination before planting by placing a few in a damp paper towel or a small pot with soil, then place it on your hot water heater or other warm environment, (due to energy efficient appliances your refrigerator top may not be warm enough - be sure you feel warmth first by placing your hand on top of the appliance.) Google for the book "Seed Savers Handbook", it is a very good source of information for planting by seed. I sow seeds often because a packet is much cheaper than a plant and you can get many different, more pest resistant and better varieties. You can also save seeds from your own plants and get many free plants. Do remember though that if you are saving seeds from your own plants - heirloom seeds & organic seeds do best. If you bought a plant or packet of seeds that say "hybrid", then save your seeds when that plant goes to seed, it will not be just like the plant you saved the seeds from. google "Hybrid plants/seeds" for more information if you like.
By Carol in PA (Guest Post) 11/13/2007 Flag
If I remember correctly, seeds found in the pyramids sprouted sucessfully. So I'd say seeds can last indefinitely. I certainly wouldnt throw any away. The only way one can be sure they are good or not is to plant them.
I find the seed companies list a shorter life span than is actually the case. With old seed you won't get the high percentage success rate, but it is surprising that with really old packs you sometimes get a few seedlings to germinate. It can work out expensive though in terms of the cost of compost used on the chance that nothing will show. But having said that I have bought fresh seed packs and had zero seedlings show. I usually plant old seeds as it is all the more rewarding if you do manage to get something to grow.
Kindest Regards - Borasic Lint
I put many of my seeds in the freezer a couple weeks before I plant them, it fools them into over wintering. not all seeds work this way though.