The Shelf Life of Vegetable Seeds

If you're like me, you've probably started thinking about next year's veggie garden. Yes, there are plenty of holiday tasks to keep me busy between now and the first part of next year, but the seed catalogs are starting to land in my mailbox so I want to be ready for them.

What do I need to do to be ready? Well, I need to go through my leftover seeds from seasons past and discard any that are past their prime. There are some seeds that last quite a long time and others that have a relatively short shelf life. Once I refresh my memory about what I have on hand, I'll have a better idea which seeds I should be looking for in the new catalogs.

While I don't want to be wasteful, I don't always have the time to sow old seeds and wait to see if they're going to germinate. I want to hit the ground running, so to speak, by having good quality seeds right from the start. Conversely, I don't want to toss any seeds that would be good for two or three more years either.

I thought you might find it helpful to know the shelf life of commonly-planted vegetable seeds so that when you go through your leftovers, you know which ones to toss and which to keep.

Here is a list of the number of years vegetable seeds remain viable, provided they have been stored in cool, dark and dry conditions:

1 year: Onion, parsley, parsnip
2 years: Corn, leek, pepper
3 years: Bean, broccoli, carrot, pea, spinach
4 years: Beet, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, eggplant, kale, pumpkin, squash, tomato, turnip
5 years: Cucumber, melon, radish
6 years: Lettuce

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension