Seed Viability – Buying Surplus on Sale – Or Using Your Own Surplus Seed

How long our vegetable, flower, and herb seeds remain viable (able to germinate) will depend on various things such as:

  • how we store them (cool, dry, low humidity, dark) and
  • even the condition of the original crop the seed comes from.


There are lots of charts out there. Here’s one you might want to take a look at for simplicity’s sake: (Cut and paste the URL into your browser.) It shows various vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Each May Vary

Just keep in mind that each chart may vary. For example one might say that corn is viable for 1 year and another might say 2 years. If I were buying corn, I’d base it on the 1 year viability to be on the safe side. I could change accordingly, after I had enough experience with corn seed to get an overall feel for how long it might last.

Why the Knowledge Might Be Good to Have

The estimated time seed is viable is good knowledge to have especially when buying this year’s surplus seed on sale.

We can feel fairly confident about seeds that are known to last 3 to 5 years or more. But if the seed lasts only 1 year (like onion and leeks) our money might be wasted. True – a few might germinate, but if you buy a package with 200 seeds in it, I think you might want more than a couple to germinate.

For peppers, some charts say 1 year and others 2 years. I’ll go with the 1 year. I’ve never had good luck with peppers over 1 year.

Final Thoughts

When you take advantage of the various sales, have one or two of the charts to refer to as you select your seed.

If you’re buying surplus seed on sale or if you have a few seeds left from this year that you’re not sure about and can’t live without in your garden, your best plan might be to follow my example (and Batman’s) and have backup. πŸ™‚


Related Posts:

Seed Saving – Seed Storage

Seed Companies – Selecting Them


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  • More good info!
    Also wanted to let you know that although I am still eating the Stuttgart onions that are supposed to be long keepers, most are sprouting or turning bad. Will be looking for another variety next year.

  • Wow. That’s something I’d not thought of. I thought seeds were viable for a “long time.” I’d assumed this to be years. Looks like I need to prune my seed box πŸ™

  • My pepper, tomato and eggplant seeds last up to five years. They’re kept in a cool, dry space. I note the germination each year and plant more the next to compensate. When germination is poor, I will dump the rest of the packet into the pot . Most times I will get enough, sometimes nothing (grow so many varieties, it doesn’t make a difference). The worst is when they all decide to come up (they were just playing a joke last year). Sell and give away extras, so it’s not a problem, beyond the time it takes to pot up all those extras.

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