Money Saving Tip: Storing Seeds

During my last lecture stop in Denver, I received many questions from the audience about how long seeds could be stored, so I thought I would post a small chart listing the number of years seed can be reasonably kept, if properly held, i.e. if kept in airtight bags in the refrigerator, not left out in some drawer or cupboard to desiccate. This can be quite a money saving tip, because for varieties that store well, you can easily order a larger (and less expensive) packet one year, and have several seasons worth of seeds ready to go. A mini packet of Pandora leeks, for example, from one of my favorite suppliers, Johnnies, costs $3.50 plus shipping for 350 seeds, but $4.95 for a packet containing 1400 seeds. Similar economies are available for most other plants, and such savvy shopping can really add up quickly to substantial savings, easily halving your seed bill each year.  Now the caveat here is that there’s no point ordering a large quantity of seeds, even if cheaper on a per seed basis, if you only intend to plant a small row, or if the seeds’ viability from year to year is poor. Also keep in mind that in general, you can expect a 10% drop in germination rates each year for even well stored seeds, so you’ll need to adjust the amount sown as seeds age.

Shelf Life of Various Vegetable Seeds
Type Years
Asparagus 3
Beans 3
Beets 4
Broccoli 3
Brussels sprouts 4
Cabbage 4
Cabbage, Chinese 3
Carrot 3
Cauliflower 4
Celeriac 3
Celery 3
Chard, Swiss 4
Chicory 4
Corn, sweet 1
Collards 5
Corn Salad (Mache) 5
Cress 5
Cucumber 5
Eggplant 4
Endive 5
Kale 4
Kohlrabi 3
Leek 2
Lettuce 5
Muskmelon (Cantaloupe) 5
New Zealand Spinach 3
Okra 2
Onion 1
Parsley 1
Parsnip 1
Pea 3
Pepper 2
Pumpkin 4
Radish 4
Rutabaga 4
Salsify 1
Scorzonera 1
Sorrel 4
Spinach 1
Squash 4
Tomato 4
Turnip 4
Watermelon 4

Until next time, I’m Michael Weishan, for Old House, Old Garden.

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