Thursday, November 12, 2009

Leftover vegetable seed storage

Many home gardeners end up with a few seeds in a seed packet or even unopened packets of seeds. Are they worth storing for planting next year?

A dry climate is ideal for storing many vegetable seeds. Life is extended under dry conditions even if seeds are stored at warmer temperatures of 70 degrees F and not 32 degrees F. Exceptions are bean and okra seeds that develop hard coats causing poor germination. Seeds will reach 4 to 7 percent moisture under the 20 percent humidity often seen in Colorado.

Here is a relative guide to the life expectancy of seeds stored under favorable conditions. Use it for deciding whether to keep or toss leftover seed.

Life expectancy in years
Bean 3
Beet 4
Broccoli 3
Brussels sprouts 4
Cabbage 4
Carrot 3
Cauliflower 4
Chinese cabbage 3
Collard 5
Corn 2
Corn salad (mache) 5
Cucumber 5
Eggplant 4
Endive 5
Kale 4
Kohlrabi 3
Leek 2
Lettuce 6
Muskmelon 5
Mustard 4
New Zealand spinach 3
Okra 2
Onion 1
Parsnip 1
Pea 3
Pepper 2
Pumpkin 4
Radish 5
Rutabaga 4
Salsify 1
Spinach 3
Squash 4
Swiss chard 4
Tomato 4
Turnip 4
Watermelon 4

Photo credit: Seed packets, Carl Wilson

1 comment:

  1. Last winter I went through all my random seeds to organize them. I placed 5 seeds of each variety in a folded, damp, unbleached paper towel/napkin, then put them into ziploc bags. After 3 weeks of sitting in a warm, dark place, I checked them and was surprised by how many plants had 80% or better germination. Many of these seeds were 10 years old. This is a fun activity to do in Dec. or Jan. and might save a bit of money too.