Can I reuse seeds from last year?

General    UK

While out in my shed looking for some seedling trays I discovered a few packets of seeds from last year that I had forgotten about. Can I sow them now or do the have a certain shelf life? There's some nice peas there I wouldn't mind planting more of.

Posted by: Robyn (4 points) Robyn
Posted: March 23, 2013


Yes you can. You can search the web for "seed viability chart", and you will find lots of information. However, websites come and go, and the numbers sometimes disagree across charts, so I've compiled a list here:

(Note: whenever I found multiple, conflicting data, I chose to most conservative estimate, i.e. the shortest duration provided. Most seeds would probably still germinate one or two years after the numbers provided below, but they may loose vigour).

I'll keep updating the list as I'll come across new data.

Artichokes: 5 years
Asparagus: 3 years
Beans: 2 years
Beets: 3 years
Broccoli: 3 years
Cabbage: 4 years
Cauliflower: 3 years
Carrots: 2 years
Celery: 2 years
Chard: 3 years
Collard greens: 5 years
Corn: 2 years
Cress: 5 years
Cucumbers: 5 years
Eggplants: 2 years
Fennel: 4 years
Kale: 3 years
Kohlrabi: 3 years
Leek: 2 years
Lettuce: 2 years
Muskmelon: 4 years
Okra: 2 years
Onion: 1 year
Parsnip: 1 year
Parsley: 1 year
Peas: 2 years
Peppers: 2 years
Pumpkins: 2 years
Radish: 2 years
Rutabagas: 4 years
Soybean: 2 years
Spinach: 2 years
Squash: 2 years
Tomatoes: 4 years
Watermelon: 4 years

Posted by: deactivated (25 points) deactivated
Posted: March 23, 2013

It depends on which seeds you have left over and how you stored them, Robyn. As long as the seeds stayed cool and dry, most all your old seeds should germinate this year, though perhaps a little less vigorously. Some seeds will last 4 or 5 years, maybe even more.

Here's a chart that should help http://bit.ly/14exxu4

Posted by: Peg Boyles (3 points) Peg Boyles
Posted: March 23, 2013

You can use them; however, don't put too much trust in them. Seeds are really cheap - I buy them fresh every year (or save them from what I harvest). It's true that they can be stored a long time, in good circumstances, but I also like to give my garden the best start possible.

If you prefer using what you have, a germination test would be a good idea:


Posted by: David Goodman (67 points) David Goodman
Posted: March 25, 2013

A good germination test is to place ten of the same type of seed on a damp paper towel. Fold the paper towel over once and put towel and seed in a plastic bag. Leave on the counter for several days to see how many germinate. If five seeds germinate in the number of days days recommended on the packet, then you have a 50% germination rate and will need to sow seed more heavily.

Posted by: Carol Quish (2 points) Carol Quish
Posted: March 25, 2013

David Hughes commented,
welcome to PlantVillage Carol and thanks for this suggestion which is great.
over 9 years ago.

You need to log in if you'd like to add an answer or comment.
PlantVillage PlantVillage logo