Seed life

How long can you keep vegetable seed and expect a decent germination rate? I ordered a packet of Jambalaya okra seed and the packet says there are 60 plus seeds in it. My plans are to plant 30 and hope for about 20 to germinate because that is about all the space I have to plant them. Can I keep the remainder in a drawer and expect them to do well the next year or should they be discarded to get new seed?


I’ve kept many types of common flower and vegetable seed—including okra—in my freezer for a number of years, and still gotten decent germination.


Stick them in a ziplock and/or a glass jar, then stick that in the freezer. It will last much longer than the “under good conditions” longevity numbers. Just be sure to let the container come to room temperature before you open it. Otherwise, you’ll get moisture condensing on the cold seed packets, and the moisture will reduce the viability of your seeds.


Johnny’s has a chart of expected shelf-life for various seeds under optimal conditions, which they define as sealed in glass, plus desiccant, in refrigeration:

Freezing, especially if you store in sealed containers as Jay recommends, will likely further extend lifespan for many of these. I’ve had radishes more than a decade old—and beans about that old—still germinate sufficiently well for a crop. A few things will last practically forever: purslane seeds, for instance, will lie dormant in the soil for decades, waiting for the optimum moment to germinate.


Here is a recent article from the Farmers Almanac


In my experience most vegetable seed lasts a lot longer than the usual lists from seed companies say. The only one that I regularly grow that doesn’t last is onion whose viability goes down quickly after three years. I think parsnip is also in that category, but most aren’t. In my current planting list I have a lot of seed that is 5-6 yrs old and and still good. I think about growing new seed or buying more when my supply is low. I am still growing carrot from seed I last grew out in 2008! I simply plant it thicker in case of germination issues (which invariably means I end up having to thin a lot) (I am working on renewing that seed as that’s old, even for me). I have often planted sweet corn seed, still good, that is ten or so years old as I don’t regrow the seed very often. And tomatoes equally old of varieties I don’t plant often. Some seed gets renewed often simply because it’s easy to save. Store bought when I run out.

I keeep my seed in a large tin in our pantry which is about 40 deg in winter, 60 in summer. Dry, dark, cool. That works good for me. How good the seed is so to begin with is important, so I’m conscioius of who I buy from. Sue