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seed storage

Vegetable Garden

Look After Your Seeds – Make a Seed Tin/Box

January 31, 2021

Have you ever worried that the seeds you’ve sown haven’t germinated, that you must have been sold a dud packet? I remember thinking something similar years ago. It didn’t occur to me that I might be the one at fault, that I might not have kept my seeds in prime condition. As it transpired, there was no might about it, I’d find seeds tucked away on shelves and in drawers, pockets and boxes and hadn’t realised that they were likely to last a lot longer if they were stored correctly.

I wrote a post a while ago, answering the often asked question “how long will my seeds last?” One of the prime considerations for seed longevity is how they’re stored. Seeds are living organisms (albeit dormant ones) and as such need to be treated  well.

Most seeds can remain viable for several years if kept in a cool, dry environment – the cooler the better. By keeping your seeds in an airtight tin or container in a cool, dry room (or even in the fridge) you’ll increase their storage life.

It’s never advised to store seeds in plastic bags which can attract moisture, instead keep them in the foil packets they arrive in. If they’re delivered from your seed supplier in small plastic bags as some of mine have been in the past, transfer them into brown paper envelopes as soon as they arrive before placing them in a container.

Make a seed storage container

So why make a container and not just throw your seeds into a tin or plastic sandwich box in a muddled heap?

Apart from the fact that specific seed packs are much easier to find if they’re ‘filed’ and you’re not having to rifle through the tin every time you want to sow something, filing them  between monthly divider cards will also help with your sowing plans.

Looking After Your Seed PacketsHow to make your sowing life much easier:

  • All you need is a good, rectangular or square airtight tin (biscuit or chocolate tins are perfect) to store your seeds in and some cardboard cut to size with the twelve months of the year marked on them.
  • Sort through your seed packets and take note of the recommended month of sowing. Bare in mind that sowing dates in Ireland can be a few weeks after the UK iwhere many guides arise from. If the packet suggests you can sow the seeds from March onwards, it’s usually worth waiting until the middle to end of March, weather
  • depending, unless you grow your vegetables in a particularly sheltered and sunny garden.
  • Pop your seed packets in between the dividers.
  • Filing seeds like this comes into its own when you’re sowing successionally. After you’ve sown a few rows, don’t put the packet back into the original month, place it into the next month as a reminder to sow a few weeks later.

Always check the use by dates and use those seeds first.  If you find you have too many why not talk to vegetable growing friends and have a seed swap… you never know what you might end up with!

For more more information on seeds, their importance and how to store them, have a look at the video below.

Have you any seed packet storage solutions? What works for you?

Vegetable Garden

How long will seeds last?

January 21, 2013

“Can I use last year’s seeds this year?”


“how long will my seeds last?”

Both frequently asked questions in almost all workshops but as with many areas of gardening, they’re queries that can’t be replied to with straightforward answers. Moisture content and storage conditions are the two main factors that govern seed viability and as everybody keeps their seeds in different containers and conditions, this will differ from house to shed.

Seed Storage

Radish SeedsSeed experts recommend that seeds are stored in sealed containers in cool but not frozen environments (so not in a freezer). My wholesale seed suppliers have advised me that the best storage conditions are in a fridge (I have a shelf totally devoted to the Greenside Up seed collections). It’s also recommended that they’re stored in their original sealed packets (they can be folded once opened) or if not available, seeds should be stored in brown envelopes (which draws moisture away from them).

Advice also given is that seeds generally remain viable for two years from packing, apart from parsnips which should be used within one year. However, it is possible your seeds will last longer (and from my own experience I know most do).

The following is a list that was published in Amateur Gardening that offered for popular vegetable and flower seeds:

Veg and flower seeds and how long they are at their best:

Veg seed No of years Flower seed No of years
Asparagus 3 Ageratum 4
Aubergine 5 Amaranthus 4-5
Beans 3 Anthemis 2
Beetroot 4 Anthirrhium 3-4
Broccoli 5 Calendula 5-6
Brussels sprouts 5 Celosia 4
Cabbage 4-5 Cineraria 3-4
Carrot 3-4 Clarkia 2-3
Cauliflower 4-5 Cosmos 3-4
Celeriac 5 Digitalis 2
Celery 5-6 Eschscholzia 3
Chicory 5 Gaillardia 2-3
Chinese cabbage 5 Godetia 3
Cucumber 5-6 Helianthus 2-3
Endive 3-4 Heliotrope 1-2
Fennel 4 Hollyhock 2-3
Kale 5 Impatiens 2
Kohl rabi 5 Larkspur 1-2
Leek 3 Linaria 3
Lettuce 4-5 Linum 1-2
Marrow 5-6 Lobelia 4
Melon 5 Marigold 2-3
Onion 1-2 Mesembryanthemum 3-4
Parsley 2-3 Myosotis 2
Parsnip 1-2 Nasturtium 5-7
Pea 3 Nicotiana 4-5
Pepper 4 Nigella 2
Pumpkin 4 Pansy 2
Radish 5 Petunia 2-3
Salsify 2 Phlox 2
Scorzonera 2 Salvia 1
Seakale 1-2 Schizanthus 4-5
Spinach 5 Sweet peas 2-3
Sweetcorn 1-2 Sweet William 2
Tomato 4 Viola 1
Turnip 5 Wallflower 4-5
Watercress 5 Zinnia 5-6

Germination Test

If you’re unsure whether your seeds are viable it’s quite easy to check by doing a germination test (and now would be a great time to do it before you go ahead and order more seeds).

Just place ten seeds in a row onto a sheet of damp kitchen paper. Carefully roll up and place them inside a clear plastic bag. Label and keep in a warm place. Check after a few days, then after a week to see if any of the seeds have germinated, ensuring the kitchen paper remains moist. Keep checking. If 8 out of 10 seeds have germinated then you’ll know you have an 80% chance of a decent packet of seeds. If only three germinate, order some new ones.

If you have the space, and aren’t overly worried about what will grow, just empty what you have into the soil and see what happens, you never know you could be in with a few surprises!

Equation for Working out Seed Viability

Ellis & Roberts 1980 via Kew Gardens

If you’re mathematically minded, it might surprise you (as it did me) that there’s an equation for predicting seed viability. This equation is from the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens website which explains in detail how to use it and others, and how they were configured.

Lastly if you’re looking for advice on how to choose vegetable seeds, here’s a blog post I wrote in 2010 giving some tips and advice.