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How long do your seeds stay good?

We've included an expiration date on each bag of seeds.

But what does that mean and can you still use them after that?
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The seeds of Planty Gardening

Seeds usually stay good for a long time

For years 🙂 

As long as you keep them cool and dry. If you leave the bag open and the seeds exposed, they'll deteriorate faster.

But the expiration date is there for a reason, right?

That's right. The date shows you the optimal germination timeframe. Optimal means that 95% of the seeds will sprout before that date.

With our seeds, it's usually 2 or 3 years from now:
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Check the bottom of the seed bag for the expiration date
But that also depends on when it was packaged. Because if you bag them up at the end of the year, they'll still have the same date on the packaging as the ones packaged at the start of the year. Even if the seeds are fresher.

For our seeds, we give it about 2-3 years. Other seed companies often put down something like 3-4 years. 

And after that date? What happens then?

Okay so, then the germination rate goes down. For example, from 95% to 80%. So that means even then, 4 out of 5 of our seeds will still sprout. 

That said, some kinds of seeds decline more slowly than others. Lettuce and cucumber seeds have different rates, but each bag has the same expiration date.

Take my sugar snaps for example. I'm still sowing the tall sugar snaps seeds I got 6 years ago. Those are still all coming up.
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Sugar snap seedlings
I've noticed that lettuce seeds deteriorate faster. In the first year, almost all the seeds sprout, in the second year 3/4, and after 3 years it drops to about half. That is still no problem: I just toss in some extra seeds when I'm sowing.

How long does this 'optimal germination' period last?

If you google around, you'll find all sorts of contradictory information: 1 site says tomato seeds can germinate up to 2 years, another says 6 years.
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Testing seeds to be sure they're still good to grow
I've found this overview to be the most reliable:

  • 1-2 years: spring onion
  • 3-4 years: dino kale, peas, lettuce, NZ spinach, arugula, pole bean, carrot, tomato
  • 5-6 years: endive, zucchini, cucumber, radish, beet, chard, spinach, winter purslane, lamb's lettuce
But again: this isn't an exact science. Just look at my sugar snap seeds 😉

If I buy seeds from you now: are they freshly packed?

Yes, all of them. All the seeds are brand new.

The bags you buy today have a shelf life of 3 years, but in practice, they last much longer.
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Just to sum it up:
  • Almost all seeds are still good even after the expiration date on the bag.
  • If you always keep your bags closed, dark, and cool, they'll keep a long time.
  • When you sow, you can always add a few extra seeds to each hole.
  • If you want to be 100% sure, do a germination test.

That's all there is to it 🙂
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