12.01.2008

seed shelf-life

After reading Marie's question on the shelf-life of garden seeds, I spent some time trying to find the answer. Many resources disagree on seed storage length. One site said to keep them in your freezer, another suggested that freezing breaks the cell walls. One resource suggested that seeds need oxygen, a different one said that oxygen isn't necessary. It was difficult to separate all the facts from the opinions.

Gardening Tips (specific for the arid south-west) by John Begeman from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona was the most reliable resource that I could find.

"According to Agriculture Science Experts at Penn State University the (seed) shelf life of some popular vegetables are as follows:

Five Years: Cucumber, endive and muskmelon.
Four Years: Cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, pumpkin, radish and squash.
Three Years: Beans, celery, carrot, lettuce, pea, spinach and tomato
Two Years: Beets, and pepper seeds.
One Year: Sweet corn, onion, parsley and parsnips."

These times are based on optimal storage conditions which include keeping seeds cool and dry."


These facts are consistent with my own experience. I've used four year-old pumpkin seeds with success. But like I said in an earlier post, my two or three year-old onion seeds didn't yield a single plant.

I did buy a #10 can of already-packed seeds to add to my long term storage. Sellers of these #10 cans suggest a possible 90% sprout rate after 8 years and 50% after 15 years. Those seeds *might* be viable if I have to use them. They aren't all seeds that I regularly plant (like swiss chard), so it would be a gamble as to whether or not I could get all of them to grow. I'm also not sure that my family would eat a veggie that they aren't used to. I think my regular garden seeds are a better bet. I buy a new set of seeds each year, but actually only use the seeds that I bought last year. If you like this idea and are just starting a garden, just make sure to buy two sets of seeds your first year.

This links to a personal experience that Angela shared about her 9 year-old seeds stored in a #10 can:

3 comments:

Marie said...

Thanks for doing the research--for some reason I thought those seeds would store well for 10 years, though I don't know why/how I got that impression. Better to know now than after they have lost their usefulness... thanks again!

crazycottonkids said...

I wish I knew more about this too- but glad you posted this question. I will do a little research yself. I actually have a class with a guy from the local extention tha is teaching us about all this kind of stuff. I will ask him his thoughts and get back to you if I learn anything!

Wendy said...

crazycottonkids -
I'd love to hear what he says about seed life! By the way - great blog! http://sistersalwayssimplifying.blogspot.com/