The Q&A Archives: Seed Longevity

Question: How long will packaged vegetable seeds (i.e. tomato, squash, beans, cucumber, peppers, etc.) maintain their ability to germinate when stored in a cool dry protected environment?

Answer: Seeds can remain viable for a long time when properly stored, but the shelf-life varies with the variety of seed. Some seeds have a higher germination rate to begin with. For instance, 75% germination is standard for corn seed, where 80-85% germination is standard for beans when the seeds are new. You can expect your seeds to remain at a high germination rate for about three years. After that time many will still be viable, but the germination rate will decline in subsequent years. To check the germination rate of stored seeds, place 10 seeds into the folds of a moistened papertowel, put them into a plastic baggie and set them on a table or counter. In a week to 10 days check to see how many seeds have germinated. The number of seeds that sprout will give you an indication of the viability of the seed batch.

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