Start a new thread

1 to 20 of 26 replies

I've heard recently that lots of food is OK to eat well after the 'Use By' date.  It makes me wonder whether these dates are - sometimes - put on to encourage us to throw away food and buy more ...  sceptic that I am!    So, does the same apply to seeds? A dear friend was last year clearing her mother's shed after her mother had died and she came across lots of old (& I mean old!) seeds which she passed to me.  I wonder if there is a chance any of them will germinate, even though some are close on 20 years past their use by date?!  To be a bit scientific  I must explain that for some years the seeds were stored in Irene's mother's shed and for the past few months they have been in a drawer in my house which isn't too warm.   Only the Rosemary & Leeks were sealed in their foil inner packet  I have planted them in compost in trays and will tend them and rush out to inspect each morning.  Will any germinate?  If so, which?  The seeds I planted with 'Use By' dates are Beetroot


Hi Eileen, my father-in-law passed away last August and I have all his seed packets. I have sown Celeriac seeds and these were ten years old and they have germinated and are growing very well in my greenhouse. I've also sown Brussel Sprouts, these were also over ten years old and they have also germinated. If I were you  I would give some of them a go, start some off on a piece of wet kitchen roll and those that start growing you can pot them into small modules and grow them on, its worth a try. 

All rather depends how they have been stored, if seeds dry out to much it's not good.  Any in plastic might be better than ones in paper.   I would definitely try them, but wouldn't waste space with trays in case they don't work so you could try them in pots instead.  Best of luck.   

Let us know if it worked, good luck.


I've been sowing seeds four and five years out of date and so far they're all fine. A couple of the sweet pea varieties have been a bit patchy, but that is most likely to do with me, rather than the seeds.

Though most of them were foil packed and they were kept in a cupboard in the cool. (Though my onions and some lettuce lived in the shed through the winter and they seem fine too.)


Emma Crawforth

Hello seed storers,

For those of you who are into science here's a link to Kew's information on how long seeds can live . You'll see that mung beans and an African grass called teff are particularly impressive. Storage and the genetics of the species in question are very important. I never give up on an old packet but I wouldn't use up my best fresh compost by sowing old seeds in it.

Emma team

It's always worth giving old seeds a go. Good gardeners never throw anything away! I try them in small pots or on kitchen paper. If nothing germinates, I scatter the rest around the garden and wait to see what happens. I've found that parsnips and some lettuce are the shortest lived.

I'll always give old seeds a go but like Emma says I wouldn't use my new compost on them.

I also chuck old seeds around the garden like Marygold and let nature take it's course

I found a packet of thompson and morgan cauli behind the dashboard of an old van, the seeds were still in the foil pack and dated 1986,21 years old at the time.i sowed them and was rewarded with the best cauli i,ve ever grown!!! 

Germination rates can decrease with age and it depends also where they have been stored. Many garden centres have their seeds for sale in greenhouse type buildings so that cannot be good for them even when fresh.

I believe some seeds were found inside some of the pyriamids, possibly corn, which germinated when sown.


Was worring about some sow by 2011 seeds I found in the shed will definately give them a go now!  

Iv'e found that the kitchen paper idea works best, saves time & space to see if they germinate. My record is 15years out of date and most germinated (bedding aster)

Alina W

I had some foil-packed T&M hollyhock seeds that were 15 tears old and had been in the garage. Result - almost 100% germination.

tony ralph

when i took over the garden where i am now i also inheriated loads of flower and veg seeds, all the flowers have germinated, and most of the veg has i,ll let you know more when i do the carrots raddish, when its warm enough, the only things i had a problem with was my runners beans, the broad beans were and are fine but the runners are a no show, 


I've found parsnip seeds the most susceptible to age, but I'm still using tomato seeds I saved in the mid-90s. If they prove a tad stubborn, an overnight soak soon sorts them out.



I've got a 'back up' fridge in my shed which is mostly full of my seeds! I keep them in plastic containers with lids, and put in those silica sachets which seem to be ubiquitous in packaging these days.I keep on meaning to try the damp kitchen paper trick on some of the more geriatric ones, but never seem to get round to it. But this year have had very poor germination from a 5 year old packet of mixed salad leaves, so at least that's one packet to go on the compost heap.


Yes, the key is how they're stored. But sometimes the apparently impossible is possible. A couple of fanatical US heirloom tom grower friends of mine have germinated tomato seeds 30+ years old.

the best thing to do is to sow and see, after all even some seeds that are in date will not germinate.