Sorting Seeds


I’m getting excited about buying seeds, but before I do that, I need to figure out what I already have. So today I am organizing my seed storage box (which might look like an old tool box to the untrained eye.)

I have a number of seeds leftover from last year, because for some seeds– tomatoes for example– you generally get more seed in a packet than a home gardener wants to use in one year. The trick is figuring out which seeds are still good, because different vegetable seeds stay viable for different lengths of time. And while you could certainly try planting seeds to see if they’re still good, my garden, like many others has limited space. You don’t want to devote space to a vegetable and then have the seeds fail to sprout.

So how do you know if the seeds are still good? Actually it’s pretty easy. There are a lot of charts that tell you how long seeds last. Here are two I’ve been using, one from Iowa State University, and one from Mother Earth News magazine.  With commercial seed, it will usually tell you how old the seeds are right on the packet, so just check your packet date against one of these lists. (If you got seeds that aren’t in a packet– say from a free exchange at a seed fair– hopefully the seed saver remembered to write down the year they were harvested.)

Anyway, here’s the verdict with my seeds this year:

Leftover parsnip seed has to go. Apparently, it only lasts for one year. It’s also time to throw out some of the pepper seed (lasts about two years).

The good news it that the cucumber seeds are still fine (last about five years), and for the tomato seeds (which last about four years) all my seeds from last year are still good, so I don’t need to order any. I plan to take these cash savings and spend it all on beans!


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