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Vegetable Seed

Are my old vegetable seeds still good?

If you are like me, when you get ready to plant some new vegetables the first thing you do is check out what you have for seeds.  The problem is that sometime I come across seeds that are from last season or even several seasons ago!  Then I have to ask…are my old vegetable seeds still good?

I did an experiment using a random variety of vegetable  seeds that I had in my seed box.  Many of the seed packages had been shoved to the back and forgotten about.

What old seeds should I use?

So here is the general information regarding the old vegetable seeds I used.

No seeds were “stored correctly”.  They were just kept in a wooden, open lidded box.  Some of the seeds were in plastic zip lock bags,  some were not.

The age of the seeds range seeds from 2011 to last years seeds from 2020.

I tried to use similar seed types as much as possible.

There are 15 seeds in each matching glass of bottled water.


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Part one of:  Are my old vegetable seeds still good?

The float test

Seeds that are “dead” or not viable will float to the surface of the water.  The seeds that are still good to plant will stay on the bottom of the glass.

During the experiment

You should be able to tell which seeds are bad after about 30 minutes.  I waited a full 24 hours to be sure.

Just leave the seeds along and let the water soak in.

The results of the float test

Surprising that the older seeds faired much better in this test.  The worst performer was the package of new seeds.  The 2020 package had 5 out of 15 as “floaters”.  The best seeds in the float test was the old seeds for 2011.

The float test is a good way to see if it is ever worth the efforts to plant the seeds but the real test is germination

Part two of : are my old vegetable seeds still good?


Now that you have test for “dead” seeds, it is time to plant the seeds that past the test.

There is nothing so disappointing as planting seeds with great expectation only to find nothing grows!

In the germination test;

I used only the good seeds from the first part.

used the same soil and pots.

watered and gave light in the same way

The results

The results were mixed.

Having planted just the good seeds from the first test, I would say that I have about an 90% success rate overall.

The disappointing seeds were the old cucumber seeds from 2011.  None of those germinated.

But before you throw out your seeds from 2011, the old tomato seeds did very well.  I had a about 80% germination rate on the tomatoes regardless of age.


The conclusion

So the answer to the question..Are mine old vegetable seeds still good? is maybe!

Certain types of seeds last much longer than others.  I found going through all my seeds, the seeds that last the longer are the smaller more compact seeds.  Any seeds from squash, watermelons and other large seeds like those you will have less success.

This chart is a general guide

vegetable seeds
how long will seeds last

A final thought for use of old seeds

I hate to waste anything!  I have taken the seeds that I have and put them all together in one bag.  I grow them as micro greens.  I put in a very high density and what grows I eat as micro green and the waste I give to my chickens.  They love them.  Check out What are micro greens for more info about growing them.

There are good reasons to buy at the end of the season. Check them out here

Please let me know your thoughts.  I love to hear other views.  Thanks

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