The shelf life of seeds

Are you familiar with the shelf life of seeds? This is an excellent time to go through your old seed packets and toss any that are too old. Some vegetable seeds last a long time while others have a very short shelf life. Using older seeds can dramatically reduce germination rates, which can get your garden off to a slow start.

Last night, I went through all of my old seeds in preparation for placing seed orders. I don’t like being wasteful so probably hold onto some seed packets for longer than I should but sometimes you’ve just got to be ruthless!

Here is a chart on the viability, in years, of the most commonly grown veggie seeds:

Bean – 3

Beet – 4

Broccoli – 3

Brussels sprouts – 4

Cabbage – 4

Carrot – 3

Cauliflower – 4

Chinese cabbage – 3

Collards – 5

Corn, Sweet – 2

Cucumber – 5

Eggplant – 4

Kohlrabi – 3

Leek – 2

Lettuce – 6

Muskmelon – 5

Onion – 1

Parsnip – 1

Pea — 3

Pepper – 2

Pumpkin – 4

Radish – 5

Squash – 4

Tomato – 4

Turnip – 4

Watermelon – 4

As you can see, lettuce, radishes, crops in the cabbage family, and the cucurbits (melons, squash and pumpkins) win the prize for longevity. As you can see, corn, leek, parsnip and onion seeds should be replaced annually or at least every other year.

Another option is to plant the older seeds more thickly and then thin out the excess plants after a couple of weeks.