The Q&A Archives: Germinating Older Seed

Question: I have lots of seeds left over and also some given to me each year. I wonder how long to keep them if they will be viable after maybe 3-4 years?

Answer: Most seed remains viable for 2-3 years, and some remain viable for much longer periods of time. To ensure your seeds remain viable for the longest possible time, be sure to store them in an airtight container, in a cool, dark location. I put mine in a jar with a tight fitting lid, put some silica gel or powdered milk in the jar, and then store i ton the floor of a seldom used closet, where it stays at an even temperature, and is kept mostly dark. You can test the viability of stored seeds by placing 10 seeds between the folds of a damp papertowel and putting it inside a plastic bag. Check the seeds in 7-10 days. Count the number of seeds that have sprouted and you'll get a pretty good estimate of the percentage of seeds which will germinate in the garden. Use this number as a guide as to how many plants you can expect to be produced from the number of seeds you'll be sowing.

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