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Hi, sorry if this has been covered before, but I couldnt find anything.  I have a lot of seeds about 4 years old and wondered if they would be ok to use.  

I decided to experiment, just because i had them anyway, and wondered if there are general rules about how long seeds can be kept.  I had heard parsnip seeds are 1 season only, so didnt sow those.  Beans and peas seem totally reliable as if they were new.  Beetroots too i have loads of seedlings.

With several types of lettuce though, i have nothing, and nothing with courgette.  What have other people found? Or are you not daft enough to try it ! 




hello a1154, 

I have heard it said that the larger the seed is the longer its shelf life, but I have never tried it to see if it is true. I suppose quite a lot depends on how the seeds have been stored too. The seed bank at Kew is the place to go for the definitive answer, I suppose.


Only thing I know that won't germinate after use by date is parsnip. I often sow stuff 2 / 3 yrs past date & more, just sow extra to compensate for what doesn't germinate. Nothing lost  Cumbers & courgettes I don't usually have any left so can't advise on those. Toms I've grown 5 years out of date.

Hi a1154

 I have germinated Chillies this year from a bumper harvest in 1996.  I have found courgette and squash can last several years as can beans and some peas.  Foxgloves, Sweet Wills, Calendula etc. also seem to last quite well........correct storage helps but some seeds just seem to go on forever whilst others turn their noses up if expected to germinate the year after harvest

It's always worth a go with most things so long as you are prepared for some disappointments along the way.


found a gift box this spring filled with all the seed packets for a great flower and veg garden. unfortunately theyd gone missing in 1994 so seeds 20 yrs old. planted them all. except for sunflowers and a single nasturtium out of about a hundred  the flowers seem gone-a few pumpkins have germinated and perhaps some basella. if there hadnt been so many i would have damp paper toweled them. there are a couple of sites if you google seed longevity.

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