How Long Do Seeds Keep?

I am always reading about Doomsday Preppers and their lists of survival gear should the economy collapse or computers take over the world or what have you. Top of the list is fresh water or the means to filter it, which I completely agree with. Water is your number one concern apart from getting shot or blown to smithereens, I suppose. After that they often list things like guns, ammo, matches, gold, silver, fuel etc. Rarely do I see the real gold on their lists…vegetable and fruit seed.

Gold pea pod

She who has a vault full of vegetable seed will be the one with infinite bargaining power. And sustainability. Just make sure the seed you save is non-hybrid and not genetically modified, as neither will produce seed that can be planted again for the same results.

Global Crisis aside, keeping vegetable seed just makes good sense. Sometimes you only need a few, so save yourself some money by keeping leftover seed for the following year. Or better yet, learn how to save your own open pollinated seed. Not only does this save you money, but this way you are able to collect from the plants that have the attributes you want and are best suited for your own soil and climate.

Saving seed

Seeds should be stored in a cool, dark location around 45 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit (seven to ten degrees Celsius with less than 40% humidity.

Moisture, heat and sunshine are what seeds require to grow. Dry, cool and dark are what they need in order to stay both viable and dormant.

Viable seeds have been found in tombs dating back thousands of years where conditions have met all three optimum storage criteria – dry, cool and dark.

How long do vegetable seeds keep? The following chart gives you a general idea, but if stored optimally you can expect seed to stay viable much longer. Before tossing out a packet of seed based on the date always “test” the seed by sprinkling a few between layers of moist paper towel and then slipping into a plastic bag. Check on the seed every few days to see if any have germinated.

Artichokes – 5 years

Beans – 3 years

Beets – 4 years

Broccoli – 3 years

Brussels Sprouts – 4 years

Cabbage – 4 years

Carrots – 3 years

Cauliflower – 4 years

Chard – 4 years

Corn – 2 years

Cress – 5 years

Cucumbers – 5 years

Eggplant – 4 years

Endive – 5 years

Fennel – 4 years

Kale – 4 years

Kohlrabi – 4 years

Leeks – 1 year

Lettuce – 5 years

Melons – 5 years

Onion Sets – 1 year

Onion Seeds – 2 years

Peas – 3 years

Peppers – 2 years

Potato Tubers – 6-8 months

Pumpkins – 4 years

Radish – 5 years

Rutabagas – 4 years

Spinach – 2 years

Summer Squash – 4 years

Tomatoes – 4 years

Turnips – 5 years

Watermelon – 4 years

Winter Squash – 4 years

While this chart is useful, always keep in mind that everything comes down to seed quality and storage conditions.