Answer: Seed viability varies from plant to plant as well as by the length of time kept and also with storage conditions. Corn and lettuce seeds for example only last reliably for about a year; but tomato seeds can last for five years. This is why the seed packages are dated, so you can tell how fresh they are. You can test viability by folding some seeds in a damp paper towel, wrapping it in plastic wrap and setting it in a warm location out of direct sunlight. Check and see what proportion of the seeds sprout. If it is low, it's time to replace the seeds. At home, seed is best stored cool and dry inside a closed container in the refrigerator.
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