Seed Viability Table

I know some of you have already posted a seed viability table and/or seed storage information. I thought I'd put this table up as a reference for myself. I found it at Growing Taste.

Again, the internet has plenty of information on the subject. Iowa State University has an interesting page with a smaller table (and a few discrepancies between the two). Daphne also has a wonderful post about her precious seeds. And check out Thomas' survival kit if you missed it.

Relative Longevity of Well-Stored Vegetable Seed
(by years)
CollardsBeetsAsparagusCorn, sweetOnion
Corn salad (mache)Brussels SproutsBeansLeekParsley
CucumberCauliflowerCabbage, ChinesePepperSalsify
EndiveChard, SwissCarrotScorzonera
Muskmelon (Cantaloupe)EggplantCelery
Spinach *KaleKohlrabi
PumpkinNew Zealand Spinach

* Note : The original information had spinach listed at 1 year. I changed it to 5 based on the info at ISU, as well as the info on this page. However, Daphne's comment compelled me to search further and the information is contradictory to say the least. While sources generally agree on most vegetables, spinach is definitely the odd one out getting either a 1 or a 5 on different sites. Shall we compromise on an average of 3 ?  Considering what Mike says about it on this TFB post, it should be good for at least that. (See Mike's reply to Anne).

Ideal storage conditions

ISU says

"The ideal storage condition for seeds is somewhere cool and dry. For many homeowners a capped jar in the refrigerator serves the purpose. Just looking at the seed will often give an indication of seed quality. For seeds that are usually smooth and round or plump, they will not germinate well if they are pocked or wrinkled. Peas, corn, and many other seeds are normally wrinkled but may not look as good as they should".

Geri Guidetti (The Ark Institute) also adds

"To sum up storage of seed, cool, dark and dry are the conditions you want. Temperature fluctuations, especially heat, and humidity are seeds' worst enemies. Generally the drier and cooler the better. You are shooting for a moisture content of about 8%. Seed that dry can be safely frozen for very long periods of time with little or no loss of seed viability. I have spoken with seed storage experts at the National Seed Storage Laboratory and was told that seed stored forty years ago under these conditions was highly viable".  >> more

Proper storage measures will be taken for my seeds this year, especially those with a shorter shelf life. :)


  1. I love how seed tables conflict occasionally. I guess you just have to test it out to see. I think of spinach as having a short life span of maybe two years (three if you are lucky). Your table has it listed as five. I really ought to test that out some day. I have a tendency to toss seed that I think is too old, and don't always do a germination test.

  2. Thx for the info Daphne. I added a note about spinach on the post. I'll have to look into it too. I will be testing a batch of last year's seed this season.

  3. Good to know lettuce keeps so long. I always thought lettuce seed only was good for a year. Here I was thinking I was doing well with three year old romaine seed :-)

  4. Lol, Dan ! It's good to know most seeds stay viable for 3 years or more. What's your experience with spinach ?

    Oh, and I received your seeds today ! Thank you ! :D
    Baker Creek sent me two free seed packets, one of which was mizuna. Tsk, tsk ! Now I have mizuna coming out of my ears !

  5. this is so helpful Miss M, although i I kept all my seed in the fridge there'd be no room for food! They're in the cellar at the mo which may be a wee bit on the damp side so I'll have to put them back into the old biscuit tin rather than the small cardboard suitcase I found in the loft the other day scribbled with 'Nicola Age 6' inside. Doh, I thought I'd found the perfect excuse for keeping it ;o)
    Anyhoo, the spinach contradiction isn't a problem once you sow it - just keeps coming back year after year after year. In fact I would never have thought to sow from seed as most of mine was transplanted from other people's plants
    cheerio, N x

  6. Hello Nic - I don't think the plant itself is hardy to my zone (we're not all zone 8 luckers, ya know ! :P ), but I could be wrong.

    As for letting it self seed, that probably won't happen either. I'll be harvesting before it goes to seed, or saving the seed. At this point in time, my plot is too small to let things pop up wherever they want to (but I will have the luxury some day !) and I do have to keep things organized and rotated. So more likely than not, I should be sowing a new crop each year.

    You've inspired me to test its hardiness and self-seedingness (is that even a word ?) in the garden, though. That will be cool !

    ps. Awww, that cardboard suitcase must be adorable, I'm sure ! :D

  7. Glade the seeds arrived! Sounds like you will be stocked with mizuna for a long while :-) As for the spinach, last year was the first time I grew it so I have not tried old seed.

  8. Yes ! and you'll be stocked with celeriac ! I noticed Kathy sent you some but I slipped a few seeds in your package, too. ;) :P

  9. I'll have to bookmark this post. I like the color coded chart that you put together. It sucks having to purchase onion seeds every year. It seems like such a waste.

  10. great post good information. Although i have had pepper seeds that have lasted longer than 2 years:)

  11. Hi Thomas - Well, as you suggested earlier, there's always the option of freezing. Or maybe it's an opportunity to get us into seed saving mode.

    Hi Melanie - That's good to know ! I'll probably come up with my own chart someday, after putting them all to the test.

  12. There definitely seems to be conflict as to years in ideal storage and typical storage condition. I would argue that 1 year is typical rather than ideal storage. It's also not clear on viability tables what the germination percentage cutoff is. I have managed to coax a low percentage of seeds to grow in a variety (that at prime would have near 100% germination. Of course, usual germination under usual growers conditions is another consideration) after typical viability so I tend not to throw out old seed though I don't trade with it...

    Did you see Stephen's response to you back at my blog? He offered you some seeds.

  13. Hello OG - Yes, the information is debatable, I'm sure.

    You bet I saw his response ! ;)
    Have contacted him already. Thank you !!

  14. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  15. Having found a mystery box where we store holiday ornaments in the garage from our move way back in 2002.. it contained seeds I had purchased in 1998-2000

    these all sprouted at 60% or better germination

    tomatoes, peppers, dill, carrots, beets, spinach, basil, mint, catnip, snapdragons, cosmos, summer and winter squash assortment, watermelon, cosmos, summer savory, radish, shelling peas, snap peas, snow peas, cucumber, mustard (greens), collards, kale, rutabaga, kohlrabi, lettuce, and melons

    These were in plastic bags in a big ziplock freezer bag that had a dessicant packet in it. Dark location, but massive temperature fluctuations as the garage is not insulated.

    Another tip to awaken old seed and increase germination is a quick soak in water that has just a tiny touch of fertilizer in it (like kelp) or vermicompost tea. Vermicompost has gibberellins in it as well which helps break dormancy.

  16. Hi, this sounds like a good way of making the most of of old seed..

    how long is a quick soak? Like 5 minutes or more like an hour?

    would you recommend chicken manure dissolved in water as a fertilizer to wake up old seeds?

    also, a general question - does anyone have any info on the strength/health of plants from old seed versus fresh seed - might the plants be more susceptible to disease?

    thanks very much, this blog is great!

  17. Great post and very well laid out table. I noticed the discussion about spinach and it’s been my experience that spinach is hard enough to get to germinate without adding the extra risk of using older seeds. Everything else looks in line with what we have been getting.

  18. I have noticed that orange carrot seeds don't last 3 years, but red carrot seeds do.

    1. I posted this a few years back and am still not sure how reliable this info is. I know my neighbor sowed some 10-yr old carrot seeds that germinated well. (They were standard orange he got through mail promotion. Probably hybrids. No variety mentioned).

  19. Found your blog because a friend has some seeds from 1992. Quite a pile of things, actually. He reminded me that they were able to sprout wheat seeds over 2,000 yrs. old (I think that's the number)that were found in the Egyptian pyramids. Must have been ideal conditions!

  20. Though not a regular reader, I wanted to add Arugula to the mix. I have some 5 year old seeds stored on a shelf (i.e. temperature fluctuation diurnally, and no other protection save a refolded seed package.) the whole row came up beautifully. 3 year old radish and broccoli raab also survived. Mayhaps some plants care more about storage conditions? That's a chart I have not seen.