I have recently read a few articles on “preparedness” dealing with long-term seed saving. You know, those “seed banks” you can purchase which will feed a family every day for the rest of their lives should the apocalypse occur, even if they have never gardened in their life! Okay, I’m being a bit sarcastic. But as you can tell, I am not a huge fan of those products. If a person wants to truly be prepared with food security, then they should learn to grow their own. That will entail seed saving as well. But all that is information for another article. What I did see was that some of the information was consistent with the research that has been done, but unfortunately there is a lot of very bad information out there.

What I wanted to do was put together was a seed viability chart of the most common seeds used in gardens and farms. I found a lot of very good references (see listing after the chart). While there are many stories of seeds being found and sprouted from Egyptian tombs, this is actually very uncommon. Not the stories, but actually finding seeds and attempting to sprout them. I think the best story I found was about seed from the Persian Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin). Seed from this tree was collected from China in 1793 and sent to the British Museum. In 1940, about 150 years later, the specimen was accidentally watered when workers were extinguishing a fire. Several of the seeds sprouted a short time later! Bottom line, there are some seeds (mostly grains, grain-like seeds, and legumes) that will last a long time, most of our annual garden vegetable seeds are not immortal.

Here is my chart that I hope will be a good reference for us all…

Seed Viability Chart

Plant Average Most Common
Amaranth Many years**
Arugula 4 years 4 years
Asparagus 3 years 3 years
Barley Many years***
Basil 5 years 5 years
Beans (bush and pole) 2-3 years 3 years*
Beets 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (broccoli) 3-5 years 3 years 5
Brassica (Brussels sprouts) 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (cabbage) 3-5years 4 years 5
Brassica (cauliflower) 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (Chinese cabbage) 3-5 years 3 years
Brassica (collards) 3-5 years 5 years
Brassica (kale) 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (kohlrabi) 3-5 years 3 years
Buckwheat Many years**
Carrot 2-3 years 3 years
Celery 2-5 years 3 years
Celeriac 3 years 3 years
Chard (Swiss) 3-5 years 4 years
Chicory 4 years 4 years
Cilantro/Coriander Many years**
Corn (sweet) 1-2 years 2 years
Cress (watercress) 5 years 5 years
Cucumber 5-10 years 5 years
Eggplant/Aubergine 3-5 years 4 years
Endive 5 years 5 years
Lamb’s Quarters Many years**
Leek 2-3 years 2 years
Lettuce 1-6 years 5 years
Melon (muskmelons) 5-10 years 5 years
Melon (watermelons) 4-10 years 4 years
Mustard 4 years 4 years
Oats Many years***
Okra 2 years 2 years
Onion 1 year 1 year
Parsley 1 year 1 year
Parsnip 1 year 1 year
Pea 2-3 years 3 years*
Pepper 2 years 2 years
Quinoa Many years**
Radish 5 years 5 years
Rice Many years***
Rutabaga 4 years 4 years
Rye Many years***
Salsify 1 year 1 year
Sorghum 4 years 4 years
Spinach 1-5 years 3 years
Spinach (New Zealand) 3 years 3 years
Squash/Courgette and Pumpkin 2-5 years 4 years
Sunflower 5-7 years 5 years
Teff Many years***
Tomatillo 3 years 3 years
Tomato 4-10 years 4 years
Triticale Many years***
Turnip 4 years 4 years
Wheat Many years***
“Flower Seed” (annual) 1-3 years 1-3 years
“Flower Seed” (perennial) 2-4 years 2-4 years

* Multiple references state that these seeds may remain viable for many years (possibly hundreds), and limited specifics were given or can be found

** Only one reference found for this plant seed, but considering the nature of the plant and seed, it is likely to remain viable for well over a decade if stored properly

*** Grains have been found to remain viable for hundreds of years, but it is rare to find seeds this old in the first place, so the research is very limited… and has been over-publicized

 

References:

  • Colorado Extension
  • Fedco Seeds
  • Iowa Extension
  • Johnny’s Seeds
  • Kew Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Oregon Extension
  • Real Seeds
  • Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook
  • Vermont Extension
  • Virginia Extension