Seed Storage and Shelf Life

Here at Wellfield Botanic Gardens, we have multiple species of plants we started in the greenhouse from seed. These plants were started with the intention of being planted in the vegetable garden in the Children’s Garden and the raised beds in the Sensory Garden. These seedlings were started in the greenhouse to help establish growth prior to being planted outside in mid May in order to evade the last frost date (May 15th). Now with the seeds started, we have to consider how we should store leftover seeds for viability in the future. 

Pictured above are some of the seedlings we have started in the greenhouse for the Sensory Garden, can you tell what they are?

Seed Storage

In order to ensure viability of seeds, they need to be stored properly. Seeds can be stored safely in cool and dry conditions. A good way to store them would be in an airtight container. This prevents moisture from coming in and affecting the seeds. The container also helps prevent any pests from getting inside and taking seeds or contaminating them. 

When it comes to seeds you harvest, ensuring they are clean and dry is essential before storing them. Moisture can lead to mold and rot, which will ensure a viability rate of zero. After harvesting seeds, clean them off and leave them out to dry in a well ventilated area. Only store them after they are completely dry and make sure to label them as well, including the year. This way you can be sure of viability rates. 

Shelf Life

Viability rates depend on storage conditions and procedures. Certain varieties of seeds tend to have a longer shelf life than others. According to the horticulture department at Iowa State University, seeds from onions tend to have only 1 year of viability, while cabbage, cauliflower, muskmelon and broccoli have a 5 year window. Some other common varieties of seeds include corn with a range of 2 years and asparagus, beans, carrots and peas with 3 years. 

Harvesting seeds is an economical way to preserve favorites in the garden and to save them for future use. In order to ensure a long shelf life for seeds, proper storage is essential. It is important to keep seeds labeled, and in an airtight container to ensure viability. So, make sure to save any extra seeds you did not use this year and store them properly for future use!

Ariana Guerrero
Lead Horticulturist

2 thoughts on “Seed Storage and Shelf Life

  1. Some seed are viable for a ridiculously long time! Only a few years ago, I grew American persimmon, Eastern redbud and plains yucca from seed that I collected in 2013. I suspect that Canna seed is viable for centuries!

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