Seeds for Next Year

People who garden in small plots usually find themselves with seeds left over at the end of the season. 

It's a good idea to have some extra seeds on hand when you're planting, just in case you need to replant. But once the planting window for a particular crop is over, you may find an extra half packet or more remaining.

So what do you do with those seeds? 

Last Year's Seeds

There's nothing wrong with keeping your extra seeds and planting them next year. As long as you've stored the seeds thoughtfully, they should be nearly as good as a fresh packet of seeds. 

Proper seed storage is to keep the seeds:

  • in their original packet,
  • dry,
  • cool, and
  • away from light.

Some people store their seeds in the refrigerator, which is fine. It's not really necessary, though. 

You want to keep seeds in their original packet because of the information on the packet. If the packet is damaged, copy the following information and keep it with the seeds:

  • Name and variety
  • Supplier or brand
  • Packing date

Conditions that Impact Seed Viability

Seed viability is the ability of the seed to germinate, sprout, and grow into a mature plant. Conditions that reduce viability are:

  • Moisture
  • Exposure to light
  • High Heat
  • Severe Cold
  • Type of plant
  • Time

Every seed is different in how much each of these factors impact it. Some seeds lose their viability quickly, some stay viable for years. 

According to Wikipedia, the oldest seed grown into a mature plant was over 31,000 years old! Although, it took advanced lab techniques to make that happen. The oldest seed to sprout naturally was a date palm seed over 2000 years old. (Source: Wikipedia Oldest Viable Seed, retrieved 03 November 2021.)

As you can see, some of the conditions that impact seed viability are under our control. The recommended conditions for storing your seeds are to keep them in a cool, dry, and dark location. 

While you can't control the passage of time, if you know when the seeds were packed, you can calculate how long they've been around, and take action accordingly. It's better to throw away seeds that are too old rather than plant them and have poor results. 


How Long to Keep Seeds

Research is available on the viability of specific vegetable crop seeds. You can find out how long your seeds should be good for each crop. 

Honestly, though, I don't think it's worth the effort to keep track of viability for most seeds. 

Yet, at the same time, I don't like to waste. 

I made a rule for myself and my seed stash - if the seeds are 3 years old or older, they get thrown away. I don't have to fuss with individual viability timetables. It makes the whole process so much easier! At the beginning of the year, I go through my entire seed stash and toss out any seeds more than 3 years old.

Here's why:

  • In the U.S., common vegetable and flower seeds are widely available every year and they aren't very expensive. 
  • It's fun to try new varieties of vegetables and flowers. If I have seed on hand, I'd feel like I couldn't buy new seeds because I already have some. Clearing out the older seeds frees me to buy new seeds for new things.
  • If I still have seeds from something 3 years later, I probably didn't like it and I should throw those seeds away. 
    • I currently have some 2-year-old turnip seeds in my seed collection. I tried them and came to the conclusion that I don't like turnips! Out they go!

The three-year rule is an approximation, of course. You can choose any length of time you like, but I wouldn't recommend keeping seeds more than 5 years. 

Exceptions to the Rule

You may want to treat rare, hard-to-find vegetable or flower differently. If the seeds are unique like this, your best bet is growing it and replenishing your seeds every year or two. 

Sometimes seeds are sentimental, like a packet that a loved one gifted you, or that you collected before the family farm was sold. Again, growing them and replenishing the seeds will help you keep the legacy alive. There's something special about sharing plants and seeds among friends and loved ones. 

Where to Keep Your Seeds

We've talked about the conditions to keep seeds, but what's a good container to store seeds? 

You're in luck! I've put together a few ideas for storing seeds in a free download guide!

Three Seed Storage Ideas

Click the image above to get your copy now!

Over the years, I've found that it's essential to keep all my seeds organized. I really like a durable container that latches closed - it won't soak the seeds if it gets wet, and it won't spill all over the place if it gets dropped or knocked over.

You want your seed storage container to be at hand when you need it. Accordingly, you need a solution that's portable, lightweight, and compact. 

The seed storage container guide gives you three solutions that fit the bill! Download your guide today!


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