So How Long Do Those Old Seeds Last Anyway?

Well, it’s that time of year again.  It’s indoor seed starting time  and for many this activity has been going on for the last month.

Many of us have seeds left over from that which we saved last year; and likely from years before that.  I have seeds all the way back to 2006 since I can not bare to throw them away.  And, I have not had the time in recent years to test all my seed packets by placing the seed in a moist paper towel and letting it sit for 3 – 5 days to see if they germinate.

This spring I have a little bit of time on my hands so I am going to take you through my seed activities as of now at HiBar Ranch, Farm and Forest.  I’ll literally blow your mind at how old some of the seed is that I have started, THAT HAS GERMINATED.

So, let’s start with the oldest seed.  Below on the right you will see cabbage.  There is only one green shoot you can see in this photo but about three are coming up right now. I planted ten seeds.  This is the OLDEST seed I have been able to start and I am quite happy as I would have never guessed you could plant cabbage from seed that was for the 2007 planting season.  Yes folks,  this summer would make that the TENTH year that seed has been stored.


Cabbage Seed On right Beginning To Sprout

Onward on our journey of experimentation and we arrive at my second oldest seeds that have germinated, Kale.


Kale Seed On Right And Rice Seed On Left

In this tray you will see two different shoots.  On the right are my kale starts.  This seed was for the 2010 planting season.  Yes, again — wow, right?! That would make this growing season it’s seventh year age wise.  As you can see from the photo nearly ALL the seeds germinated as compared to just a few cabbage from the previous picture.  This survival rate sure makes me want to keep kale around just for the sheer “if **it hits the fan I’ve got food” theme.  As many of you know, kale is a major nutritional plant and does well in cool early spring and fall plantings.  I will now put kale seed right up there with batteries and matches in that ‘key must haves’ list.

On the left hand side of the tray you will see my third oldest 100% germinated seedlings.  This is rice packaged for the 2014 growing season.  So, this will be it’s third year, age wise.  This is an upland rice versus paddy rice, meaning it doesn’t need to constant moisture that paddy rice needs.  Imagine having three year old rice you can plant in times of emergency.  Wonderful and who would have known that the age of these seeds hasn’t impaired the germination percentage of 100% (for the rice and kale).  Unbelievable.

Why may my seeds still be able to germinate while others do not?  Storage, storage, storage.  I keep all my seeds in dark cold temperatures, either in the freezer or in the back of a cubbard.

Moving on to my other seed start experiments — here is my first attempt at using egg shells as the container for my seed starts.  I will be able to directly place the shell into the soil for calcium in the coming months when these starts go out into the garden.  Here is the progress in their first week.


Peppermint, Spearmint and Onions Started In Egg Shells

The picture below captures other starts I’ve done in a more traditional starting format.  These starts are a combination of herbs for cooking and medicinals for my medicine garden.


Onion, Calendula, Hyssop, Lovage, Marjoram, Parsley, Sage and Thyme

I’ve also been doing experiments in the kitchen with sweet potatoes, romaine lettuce, celery and carrots.  Here are a few shots of the progress sprouting all of these in water.

Left Picture Is Celery & Romaine Lettuce, Top Right Picture Is One Carrot Top Start and Celery, Bottom Right Picture Has All Sweet Potatoes

All of the kitchen starts I began last month out of curiousity.  I had done sweet potatoes this way before but I honestly had never tried sprouting celery, romaine lettuce or carrot greens.  It had literally never crossed my mind.  So, of course I had to try it and it’s AMAZING how fast these food staples grow, in a window sill, inside in winter.

That is the latest on our seed saving/starting adventures.  Thanks for taking some time out to learn more about seed starting and the resilience of the seeds you may have that you aren’t sure if you throw away or try to grow.  I am truly surprised that seeds as old as I have planted are so vibrant.  I’ll keep you all informed of the other seeds I test, as I test them, over this spring season.

God Bless!  Lori Davis, HiBar Ranch, Farm and Forest

2 thoughts on “So How Long Do Those Old Seeds Last Anyway?

  1. I must get organized and begin some seeds tomorrow!! I keep thinking about it. And forgetting about it and then it gets almost too late to bother. However, since I adore gardening and the price of produce is on the rise, it makes sense to go seed starting crazy. Brussel sprouts I definitely want to do again this year. Last year, I was only able to harvest leaves, not leaves from tiny brussel sprouts but the big leaves of the plant and they’re amazing! Raw, shredded in salads or cooked like kale, I was hooked fast. Tomatoes are top of my list too! Your post has motivated me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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