Seed viability

It is the time of year when everyone is looking at ordering new seeds for the growing year. We should also go through our old packets of all seeds to see what we do and don’t have, before we get carried away with ordering new seeds! I’m quite guilty of this. I get very excited when new seed catalogues come through my door and before you know it I’ve circled enough ‘wants’ to need a 5-acre farm to grow them all.

Many of our old seeds are still useful. You might ditch some, as you didn’t like the taste of the variety, or it didn’t grow well etc. And of course some might be out of date and are no longer viable (how old they can be before they no longer germinate).

To find out the viability of seeds isn’t that easy. You can find lots of websites talking about viability, but not many list that many of the actual seeds a gardener in the UK may grow. I finally managed to find a really useful seed viability chart from Amateur Gardening magazine (January 2012 issue). I also found a printed copy of the Seed Savers Handbook list (Australian) which someone gave me last year.

I noticed some differences between the two, so have compiled an Excel document listing seed name and the number of years each suggests. Most of the differences are minimal, though I do wonder why one says Chicory has a viability range of 5 years, and the other 8. And Cucumber has been given 5-6 years by Amateur Gardening and 4-10 by Seed Savers! Maybe the different climates (UK and Australia) affect the viability of seeds? And I’m curious to know why Amateur garden left out Chard (which is known as Silverbeet in Australia), given how popular it is in the UK? I guess as it is the same family as Beetroot, the viability must be similar.

Anyhow, I thought my little documents might be useful for other people, so am including them here so others can download them if they find it helpful.

Download Vegetable seeds

Download Herb seeds

If you come across any further useful seed viability lists, I would love to know about them!

5 thoughts on “Seed viability”

  1. What a fab resource!

    I think John Harrison published something on his Allotment site somewhere (he's referred to it a couple of times on Twitter), but from what I remember it's not as comprehensive as yours.

    Interesting that you've used Google docs to host your downloads – you've set me thinking on whether I can use this for the fact sheets I've got planned for the 52 Week Salad Challenge 🙂

  2. Thanks VP – glad it is useful. I figured since I did all the work for myself, I most well post it in case it was of use to others. I'll look up John Harrison and will add anything I find.

    Google Docs does the job and you can set each doc to be private, limited public (ie. just those with the link) or fully public, which means it can be searched. People don't need an account to access public docs, which is useful.

  3. Thanks – I'd originally discounted Google Docs because I thought you needed a Google account in order to view it. You've just saved me a lot of extra work 🙂


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