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Veg seed storage times

If you're a veg grower, you've probably got lots of old seed packets lying around – some opened, some still sealed. Are they still worth sowing?

Moisture and heat are the two factors that will reduce the viability of your seeds. Keep them cool and dry and they will last much longer.

Over time, seed viability decreases. Onions, parsnips and sweetcorn have an especially short shelf life, so are not worth keeping, but cucumbers and beets last for several years.

To sow with confidence, try our simple 14-day test to check whether your old seed is worth sowing. In the meantime, here's our guide to how long seeds can last, if stored in optimum conditions.


One year

One year

· Lettuce

· Onions

· Parsnips

· Sweetcorn

Two years

Two years

· Carrots

· Celery

· Leeks

· Peppers

· Swedes/turnips

Three years

Three years

· Beans

· Peas

· Salad leaves

· Spinach

· Swiss chard

· Tomatoes

Four years

Four years

· Aubergines

· Brassicas

· Courgettes

· Radishes

Five years

· Beetroot

· Cucumbers




Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Veg seed storage times
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Linda Gruchy 13/02/2014 at 18:40

I had an old packet of cheap Bunyard Exhibition broad beans which had a use by date of 2006. I was loath to throw them, so sprouted them in a jar in the same way you do sprouts for eating, except that as soon as the root peeped out, I planted them in loo rolls. I was astounded that every seed germinated and they're now growing away in the greenhouse.

Hostafan1 13/02/2014 at 19:20

I read an article about " out of date" seeds and they suggested trying a sample on moist tissue to see if they germinate,( as you can see germination immediately) I'd never throw seeds out without giving them a go. I sowed some seeds of salad bowl lettuce a couple of weeks ago which were " sow before 2012" , and I'm very happy with the germination. Give it a go, but maybe nice and early so you've time to buy more should they fail.

Zoomer44 13/02/2014 at 20:09

I've a packet of sunflowers seeds which should have been sown by 2010 and still looking good. They germinated last year and the last of them will be sown this year.

Busy-Lizzie 14/02/2014 at 14:43

Pea and bean seeds keep for several years. Parsnips and carrots don't!

bigal7 14/02/2014 at 17:52

i keep my seeds in old sweet boxes ie xmas with dates on top and just try old seeds first if no luck i just buy new