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March 20, 2017

How to Store Leftover Seeds

How to Store Leftover Seeds

Spring has sprung here in Oklahoma and I'm in gardening mode. Cabbage and garlic are already up and growing, and my seed packets are out and organized according to planting date.

I rarely plant a full packet of seeds these days, my garden just isn't big enough and there are just the two of us eating from the garden. I plant a lot of tomato plants but I like a couple of plants of several varieties rather than a dozen of one kind.

Sprouted seeds

Are those seeds still good to plant the following year? Yes, they can be if you store them in optimum conditions. Don't just throw them in the potting shed or garage; heat and humidity are seeds' greatest enemies, and mice love to snack on them.

The best way to store unused seeds is to keep them in their original packets. You'll know exactly what variety they are and what year they were packed (the date will be on the packet, something like "packed for 2017"). The packet also has all that great planting information printed on it too.

Store seeds in their original packets with the planting information on the back.

Be sure your seeds are dry before storing them; moisture will lead to mold.

Put all your packets inside zippered plastic bags and then store in the refrigerator. Since the temperature and humidity level both rise every time you open the refrigerator door, it's best to put your seeds in the back corner of the lowest shelf, where the temperature will be the most stable. Place  a packet of dessicant, some uncooked rice or a tablespoon of powdered milk in each bag of seed packets to absorb moisture.

Some types of seeds will remain viable for up to five years, but the best way to keep seeds is to plant them yearly and save the seeds from those plants at the end of the season.

Lettuce seeds are viable to up to five years.

Onion, leek and parsnip seeds are only good for one year, but other vegetable varieties can last for four or five years - sometimes even longer when stored properly. High Mowing Seeds has a handy Seed Viability Chart here.

If you have older seeds and aren't sure if they are still viable, you can do a germination test or even pre-sprout your seeds and just plant those that sprout. (I've always wondered what you're supposed to do with the seeds you use in germination tests. Are you supposed to throw them out? Not me, I'd plant them!)

My own "gourmet lettuce mix" of leftover seeds.

I have several partially-used packets of lettuce seeds in my stash. Lettuce seeds are supposed to be viable for up to five years, so this year I'm planning to mix all the varieties together and plant my own "gourmet lettuce mix." I'll let a few plants bolt and go to seed so I'll have new seeds for next year.

Related Posts:
How to Order Spring Seeds
How to Grow Vegetables in a Shady Garden
About Those Tomatoes

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. We've got some seeds stashed away in the fridge, I'm curious to see how they do this year when we try to plant them! Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop!

    1. What kinds? Let us know how they do!

  2. Good information... I store my home picked seeds in labeled zipper plastic bags in a tin... in the basement. The seed packages from stores are stored in a plastic basket in the basement and now I am wondering if I should maybe put those in a closed tin also. I have had some seeds grow that were ridiculously old... last year some came up that had a packing date of 2002, I think it was. I know better than to expect that though and so I sowed extra heavily. Others I did that with didn't come up and needed to be seeded a second time. :) Thank you for the post.

    1. The basement is a nice cool place, wish we had one!

  3. Great idea for saving seeds. My most saved seed is for flowers, a balloon flower. They are little hard pellets so it makes it easy for me.

    1. That sounds like an easy seed, Kim. Seeds that are easy to gather, not fussy, and don't need special handling are the best. In my garden, basil and calendula are the easiest seeds to save.

  4. I have some seeds saved from 3 years ago :/ We will see if they are still good this season... Thanks for sharing these tips (that I need to use) on the Homestead Blog Hop!

    1. Germination goes down each year but sometimes I've had great success with three-year-old seeds, so hopefully you will too. :-)

  5. Hi Kathi,
    I did not realize that you were supposed to store them in the refrigerator - maybe that is why my seeds never seem to grow. Thanks for the advice. Happy Spring and Happy planting! Pinning & tweeting.

    1. Yes, Marla, a cool, dry and dark place is the best storage for seeds. I hope you'll be more successful now.


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