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Shelf Life of Garden Seeds

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of dmodzelewski

Gardeners may choose to store garden seeds--especially from vegetables--at the end of the growing season, but the seeds will not last forever. The natural shelf life of garden seeds depends on the kind of plant and how they are stored.

Definition

Garden seed shelf life refers to how long the seeds can remain in storage and still germinate.

Types

The seeds fall into three main types. Annual flower seeds can last from one to three years on average. Perennial flower seeds last two to four years. Vegetable seeds will be viable for one to five years, depending on type.

  • The seeds fall into three main types.
  • Annual flower seeds can last from one to three years on average.

Storage

Seeds will last longer than their natural shelf life if they are stored in a cool, dry location, such as in a sealed jar in the refrigerator with a moisture absorbent (rice, silica packets or powdered milk), according to the Oregon State University Extension.

Considerations

A way to test seeds to determine if they can still germinate is to place a few of the seeds on a wet paper towel in a warm location, according to the Utah State University Extension.

Warning

Seeds could begin to sprout in a humid location, drastically shortening the shelf life. Warm storage spaces can also shorten the shelf life.

Store Garden Seeds In A Freezer

Spread your seeds out on paper toweling or a screen tray outdoors in light shade for at least six hours. Choose a day with low humidity. Moisture in the seeds can expand when frozen and kill them. Place the seeds in envelopes or small plastic bags, according to type. Place the jar in a place in an area of the freezer where it is unlikely to be disturbed. Bring the seeds you plan to plant back to room temperature at planting time.

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