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How to Seed Files

Last Updated: October 12, 2020

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Torrent files allow users to download files from another user’s computer using a BitTorrent Client. Seeding files means that you make file available for other users to download on your computer. This wikiHow teaches you how to seed files using a BitTorrent client.

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Torrent files allow users to download files from another user's computer using a BitTorrent Client. Seeding files means that you make file available for other users to download on your computer. This wikiHow teaches you how to seed files…

How Long Do Seeds Last? (Plus a Cheat Sheet on Seed Life)

Have you ever dug into a pile of old seeds and wondered if they’re still good? Here’s what you need to know about storing your garden seeds properly and how long you should expect your seeds to last. Download and print my free cheat sheet to learn the average lifespan of common vegetable, herb, and flower seeds.

The beginning of spring usually sees me sprawled in the middle of the living room floor, with all my ammo boxes, laying out rows and rows of seed packets sorted by vegetable, and then by variety.

Some are even color-coded… and I suddenly realize I have a rather strange obsession with collecting 12 different types of purple tomatoes (and counting).

Inevitably, a handful of seed packets get tossed in the compost pile as I double-check the dates… peppers from 2014, onions from four years ago. Yikes.

Some seeds I’ve only sown once or twice but still have half a packet left, some I’ve saved… and saved… and saved… because they’re so easy to save by the bagful every year (I’m looking at you, beans).

Others are rotated every few seasons as I try new varieties, and by the time I make it back to those Parisienne carrots, it’s already been a couple years.

Are they still good? Should I get new ones? How long do seeds really last, anyway?

I’ve combed through countless seed sites and extension sites over the years, wondering this very question.

So, how long do seeds last?

There seems to be no consensus, especially when you take into account the environment the seeds were stored in, the quality of the original crop the seeds were harvested from, and even the condition of the seeds themselves, as treated seeds will have a different lifespan than seeds in their natural state.

Seeds have a shelf life (as all living things do), and depending on where your particular shelf is, the viability of your seeds can vary by as much as a year or two.

When someone asks, “How long do broccoli seeds last?” a safe answer is three years, but in ideal conditions your seeds could still actually sprout after five.

So, you see where our dilemma lies.

What are “ideal” conditions?

In a perfect world, we’d all have second refrigerators with perfectly controlled humidity levels in which to store our seeds.

Our seeds would live in this cool, dark, dry environment and 10 years later, those very first tomato seeds we’d ever bought would still be viable.

In reality, our homes go from hot to cold at the turn of the seasons, we sometimes forget our seed packets outside overnight (or at least I do), and an old shoebox will have to do for storage.

We can’t really fault ourselves either. Who knows what the seed went through before it even reached the store?

But here’s a proven fact.

Seeds store best below 40°F with less than 10 percent humidity, tucked inside airtight containers in a dark environment.

Every time a seed experiences less than ideal conditions, it suffers a decline in quality. It may not die right away, but it might take a little longer to germinate. Eventually, it will fail to germinate at all.

Using the baggie method with coffee filters (or paper towels) is a good way to test seed germination.

By taking a sample of 10 to 20 seeds and pre-sprouting them in baggies, you can gauge how viable those seeds are before committing to starting more of those seeds or transplanting the seedlings.

A good rule of thumb to know: less than 50 percent germination rate means it’s time to buy new seeds.

Then, there is the issue of seed vigor.

According to Oregon State University, vigor is the “ability of those seeds to produce normal seedlings under less than optimum or adverse growing conditions similar to those which may occur in the field.”

That is, the ability of your plants to survive in the ground outside with all the elements working against them (even if they’ve been hardened off), as opposed to being coddled inside in a cozy baggie.

While a germination test can predict viability, it can’t truly predict vigor: how well a seedling will grow in terms of health, strength, uniformity, and root system, not to mention its production of flowers and fruits.

A seedling with compromised vigor may have a missing cotyledon, look stunted or scrawny, or seem overall slower to develop than seedlings from fresher seeds.

Try as they might, sometimes older seeds just don’t have it in them to sprout, grow, and go all the way to seed again. A will to germinate does not equal an ability to thrive.

What the pros say about the average lifespan of seeds

The cheat sheet below takes the average life expectancy of seeds from a variety of sources, including the cooperative extensions of Oregon State University, Colorado State University, Purdue University, and Virginia State University.

Consider it more as a guideline, as the longevity of your seeds ultimately depends on the date on the packet and how carefully you’ve stored them since then.

Garden Betty’s Seed Life Cheat Sheet

Download printable chart
Vegetables Shelf Life
Asparagus 3 years
Beans 3 years
Beets 3 years
Broccoli 3 years
Brussels sprouts 4 years
Cabbage 4 years
Carrots 3 years
Cauliflower 4 years
Celery 3 years
Chard 3 years
Chicory 4 years
Collards 4 years
Corn (sweet) 2 years
Cress 5 years
Cucumbers 5 years
Eggplant 4 years
Endive 5 years
Kale 4 years
Kohlrabi 3 years
Leeks 2 years
Lettuce 3 years
Muskmelons 5 years
Okra 2 years
Onions 1 year
Oriental greens 3 years
Parsnips 1 year
Peas 3 years
Peppers 2 years
Radishes 5 years
Rutabagas 4 years
Salsify 1 year
Spinach 3 years
Squash (summer and winter) 4 years
Tomatoes 5 years
Turnips 4 years
Watermelons 4 years
Herbs and Flowers Shelf Life
Basil 5 years
Chives 2 years
Cilantro 2 years
Fennel 3 years
Oregano 4 years
Parsley 2 years
Sage 4 years
Annual flowers 1 to 3 years
Perennial flowers 2 to 4 years
Download printable chart

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on March 17, 2015.

Linda Ly

I’m a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is. Read more »

Here's what you need to know about storing your seeds and how long seeds last. Download a free cheat sheet on the lifespan of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds!