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Shelf Life of Seeds

January 12th, 2013

As I’ve been sorting through my seed stash, I’ve been pulling out seeds I know are no longer viable. While some seeds may last for a long time (like tomatoes), others start to lose their oomph very quickly. I have found that with onions it’s best to purchase new seeds every other year. In general, fresh seed will have better germination rates than older seed. Tomato seeds seem to be the exception, I have great germination with old tomato seed. Beets do better if they’re only one or two years old. Onions need to be fresh. Here’s a handy guide to download or pin. Here’s the large PDF download of this chart: Shelf Life of Seeds
Shelf life of seeds
If you’re new to gardening it’s especially important to start with fresh seed. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

How do you store your seeds? shoebox? fridge? scattered around the house? in the garage?

12 Comments to “Shelf Life of Seeds”
  1. Maybelline on January 12, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Large index card box with packet attached to card containing notes.

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  2. Melanie in Ca on January 12, 2013 at 9:58 am

    One of those old photo storage boxes that’s printed in a riot of colorful flowers. Some packets have index cards with notes, some don’t, and at this point I’ve decided to start completely over and be better organized, keep more detailed records. We’ll see…….

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  3. risa on January 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Wooden index box in fridge

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  4. Peggy on January 12, 2013 at 10:54 am

    OH thank you so very much! This is exactly what I needed as I have a container of seeds which need to be gone through. Have you by any chance mentioned which companies you order from in the past? This is the first year we did not receive any catalogues so I am rushing to look at new companies. Thank you!

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    • Susy on January 12, 2013 at 11:38 am

      I typically have a few places I order form each year and then choose a few new ones as well. Here’s my list of great seed sources, you really can’t go wrong with any of them:


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  5. Nebraska Dave on January 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    My seed storage is an old shoe box. At the moment it houses 250 packs. None of these have been saved. My attempt at saving tomato seeds is to take the overripe tomatoes from last fall and just throw them on the ground in the area that I will plant tomatoes next spring. A spade will work great to chop them up just a little. Then sprinkle just a little compost and cover them with a thin layer of straw. I’m trying to encourage volunteer growth. Some of the best tomatoes last year came from four volunteers last year.

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  6. EL on January 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    All of the above?

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  7. Misti on January 12, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Ah, yeah, I’m going through this right now. I started a ton of seeds from our stash, flower seeds, just to see what took and doesn’t. I’ll probably be searching for new seeds soon as a lot didn’t sprout (though I’m going to wait until warmth of spring to be sure.)

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  8. Wendy on January 12, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    I store my seeds in two boxes that one of my first orders of seeds arrived in; they sit in the bottom of my closet for most of the year until planting time. I just started at looking at what I need to order for this year, so the pdf couldn’t be more timely. Thanks!

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  9. KimH on January 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Dont know how I missed this one but I did.. :)

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  10. Amy S on March 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

    do you know how long the shelf life for onion seeds are? just curious. My seeds are in an old tupperware square container with the lid on. I store it in the garage in the winter.

    Reply to Amy S's comment

    • Susy on March 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Onions are best if purchased fresh each year, the germination rate will decline greatly and even the second year you’ll only have about 50% germination and they will take much longer to germinate. I’d recommend throwing the seeds in the garden when the soil warms but purchasing new seeds for your main crop.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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