Posted in Gardening

Veggie Seed Shelf Life

March 3, 2013 - 9:46 pm

Did you know that seeds have a ‘shelf life’? I didn’t know that for the longest time, and for a while just figured that my veggie seeds weren’t germinating because I had done something wrong. As it turns out, the shelf life of my seeds were well past expired (and, okay, I probably didn’t store them in ‘ideal’ conditions, either).

How do you know if your seeds are still okay to plant? If you’ve purchased those little seed packets from the store (Lowes, Walmart, etc), take a look at the back. You should be able to find what year the seeds were packed for. seed-packet-date

Now it gets a little tricky here because a seed packed for a certain date (2011 for my Hillbilly tomato and California Wonder bell peppers) doesn’t necessarily mean that my seeds are only 2-3 years old. Who knows how long those seeds sat around before they were packaged for sale? For all the consumer knows, those seeds could have sat around for quite a while. If you’re having trouble with your seeds not doing anything, this date is a decent clue into how old your seeds are.

If you’re a smartypants you probably save seeds from your garden each year, giving you a free supply of seeds for next year’s garden. When you’re tucking away your seeds to store for next year write down the year those seeds were harvested. That way, if you decide to take a year or two off from growing, let’s say, cucumbers because you ended up sick of them after a bumper crop, you can come back to your seed stash two years later and know exactly what year you saved those seeds and if they’re still viable.

Some seeds last longer than others, so here’s a handy little chart I threw together (based on information found from the Iowa State University Extension online) to help keep this seed shelf life business straight:


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