Can You Plant Last Year's Seeds? How to Store Your Leftover Seeds

A variety of seed packets holding seeds leftover from last year.

Can you use seeds from last year? 

Yes, you can. Here's how to save your leftover seeds so you can plant them next year.

How to store your leftover seeds so you can plant them next year

Do you plant an entire packet of seeds in the spring, or do you have seeds leftover?

I rarely plant a full seed packet these days. My raised bed garden just isn't big enough and there are just the two of us eating from the garden these days. 

And because I like a wide variety of tomato plants, for instance I plant a few seeds of several varieties rather than a whole packet of just one kind.

Life is too short to plant just one variety of tomato!

So I always have seeds left over - perhaps you do too?

A hunk of soil full of broccoli seedlings, on a white plate.

Can you use leftover seeds from last year?

Are those seeds still good to plant the following year? Yes, they can be - if you store them correctly. 

Don't just throw your leftover seeds in the potting shed or your garage. Heat and humidity are your seeds' worst enemies, and mice love to snack on them.

Will last year's seeds still be good?

It's ok to plant last year's seeds. As long as they have been stored correctly, last year's flower and vegetable seeds will grow, and will produce the same kind of plant as they would have last year.

The vegetables they will produce are safe to eat and will be just as fresh and good-for-you as the seeds you planted last year.

How to store your unused seeds properly

Store your unused seeds 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 2022"). 

Plus the seed packet also has all that great planting information printed on it that you'll need next year.

A variety of half-filled seed packets from last year, showing the planting information for each type of seed.

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

For the best results, put all of your seed packets inside zippered plastic bags and then store in the refrigerator. 

The temperature and humidity level both rise every time you open the refrigerator door, it's best to store 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 zipper bag of seed packets to absorb moisture.

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How long will my seeds be good?

Seeds don't last forever.

All types of seeds can remain viable (fresh and able to germinate and grow) for at least a year or two. After two years, the germination rate will begin to drop and eventually, the seeds won't be viable any more.

The amount of time depends on what type of seed you are saving. Some kinds will remain viable for up to five years or even longer. 

But certainly the best way to keep seeds fresh and viable is to plant them yearly - or every other year - and save the seeds from those plants at the end of the season. 

Several packets of lettuce seeds left from last year, on a white background. If stored correctly, you can plant the remaining seeds this year.

Onion, leek and parsnip seeds are only good for one year, for instance, but other vegetable types can last for four or five years - sometimes even longer when stored properly. 

High Mowing Seeds has a handy Seed Viability Chart here that shows how long various types of vegetable seeds will be good. 

According to the chart, some vegetable seeds can remain viable for up to five years, however I've stored many seeds that still sprouted after 7 years or more.

Test the germination rate of your seeds

If you have older seeds, you can do a germination test. Actually, a germination test is simply pre-sprouting your seeds. 

If only half of the seeds in your test sprout, those seeds have a 50% germination rate. You can compensate for this by planting twice as many seeds as you normally would. 

If fewer than half of your seeds germinate, you might just want to buy fresh seeds this year. Then store the leftover seeds from the new packet properly, so they will grow for you next spring, or in your fall garden later this year.

I always go ahead and plant the seeds that sprouted in my germination test. Why let them go to waste?

A woman's hand holding lettuce seeds of several different varieties. Lettuce seeds can be viable for up to five years.

Plant heirloom, open-pollinated seeds

In order to save seeds from your garden plants, you should be growing open-pollinated (heirloom) seeds. 

Heirloom seeds will grow true to type. In other words, the variety that you planted this year and then saved the seeds, will produce the same variety of vegetable or flower next year.

Hybrid seeds aren't guaranteed to do this. The flower or vegetable you get next year from your saved hybrid seeds could be totally different from what you grew this year. 

Look on the seed packet to see if your seeds are an heirloom or hybrid variety.

For more information on why you should garden with heirloom seeds, read this guest post from Mary at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.

You can use leftover seeds from last year

As long as you store your extra vegetable and flower seeds properly, you can plant the leftover seeds next year.

  • Store them in the original seed packets
  • Place the seed packets in a zippered plastic bag
  • Add a dessicant packet, uncooked rice or dry milk powder to the bag to absorb moisture
  • Keep in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight

If you have older seeds, do a germination test to see if they are still viable and plant accordingly.

Planting last year's seeds will save you money. You can use the savings to buy different varieties this year!

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Related Posts:
Start seeds indoors
Common gardening terms and phrases explained
Why you should plant heirloom seeds


A hunk of soil with broccoli seedlings on a white and burgundy background. "Can you store leftover seeds and plant them next year?"


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