How Many Seeds in a Packet, and How Long are Seeds Good For? Everything You Need To Know
If you’re anything like the rest of us, you probably have at least a few leftover seeds from last year. Most gardeners that I know (myself included) have a tendency to hoard seeds–and who can blame us? Seeds are inexpensive and the packets are pretty–so it’s easy to stock up.
But you may be wondering if these surplus seeds are still good to plant. Can you grow last year’s seeds this season? Can you give them to friends or hand them out at a seed swap? Or are you better off just trashing the lot?
Though specifics vary by plant and variety–and there are no guarantees–in an ideal storage environment most seeds will be viable for years past their purchase date. You can extend the shelf life of your seeds even further by freezing them.
Read on for the answers to your most pressing questions about seeds and seed packets.
How many seeds are in a packet?
At Seeds ‘N Such, we carry a variety of packet sizes to fit all of our growers’ needs. Packet sizes are as follows:
Ideal for most home gardeners. The amount of each seed varies by variety but will be listed on the packet, along with other pertinent information.
Typically three to five times the amount of seed as in a packet. Perfect for small farms or gardeners with larger families, and homesteaders that like to preserve food.
For commercial growers, greenhouses, and nurseries. Usually eight to ten times the amount of seeds as a packet.
Twice as much seed as in a ProPak, but only available for a few selected varieties often purchased in bulk, like corn and peas.
Find more information about packet sizes here.
How long are seeds good for?
Most seeds are good at least a year or two past the ‘packed for’ date. At Seeds ‘N Such we guarantee our seeds 45 days from purchase, but that’s not to say that your seeds won’t be good past this time frame. With the proper care, seeds can last for years.
There are a few factors that affect seed viability, mainly the age of the seed, the type of seed, and how the seed was stored.
Most seeds are viable one or two years from the date listed on the seed packet. At Seeds ‘N Such, we never use old seeds, so you can be confident that any seed you buy from us was packed fresh for the year you bought it.
Some seeds just keep better than others. Plants in the allium family (onion, garlic, chives, leeks, scallions, etc) lose about 50% germination each year, so these seeds are best sown the same year they were received.
Seeds that are pelleted (often the case with minuscule seeds like lettuce and some flowers) are generally only good within one year. Cucumber and melon seeds, on the other hand, can be good for multiple years if stored in ideal situations.
Perennial flower seeds usually keep for five years or so, but annual flower seeds are a little shorter lived, keeping for three years in the perfect environment.
The following table is adapted from Colorado State Extension and lists 30 of the most popular vegetables and their shelf life in perfect storage conditions. The approximate seed count per packet comes directly from seedsnsuch.com, and the actual number of seeds per packet may vary, depending on the variety.
The estimated years of viability are not a guarantee of seed vitality, but the number is calculated based on storage under perfect conditions. This number is only intended to be a resource for garden planning.
|Seed||# seeds in packet||# years viable||Seed||# seeds in packet||# years viable|
|Arugula||200||6||Kohlrabi||25 - 500||3|
|Beans||½ oz - 2 oz||3||Lettuce||10 - 1000||1|
|Beets||200 - 200||4||Okra||20 - 100||2|
|Broccoli||50 - 100||3||Onion||200||1|
|Brussels sprouts||50 - 100||4||Parsley||200||1|
|Cabbage||50 - 300||4||Pea||150 - 175||3|
|Carrot||500 - 800||3||Pepper||10 - 100||2|
|Cauliflower||10 - 100||4||Pumpkin||10 - 25||4|
|Celery||500||3||Radish||250 - 500||4|
|Chard, Swiss||200||4||Spinach||250 - 350||3|
|Corn, Sweet||60 - 125||2||Squash||10 - 30||4|
|Cucumber||20 - 50||5||Tomato||15 - 50||4|
|Eggplant||10 - 85||4||Turnip||300 - 1000||4|
|Kale||50 - 500||4||Watermelon||5 - 30||4|
If you don’t sow your seeds the same year that you buy them, you’ll want to store the seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place for maximum longevity. Basements can work well, as long as the space isn’t too humid. Run a dehumidifier or store your seeds with desiccant packets if you’re worried about moisture.
Cornell Small Farms Program has identified a 100 Rule to seed storage: seeds are considered safely stored if the temperature and humidity levels add up to a number less than 100. Any higher than that and the seeds will lose viability.
Cabinets and closets are ideal, but your home’s attic will likely be too hot. Don’t store seeds in storage units or garages, as temperatures in these areas are prone to fluctuate. You can keep any seeds you plan to sow this season in a greenhouse, but be sure to store the seeds in a waterproof container out of direct light, or the seeds may germinate prematurely and ruin.
Most seeds come in paper packets for a reason–the paper allows any moisture to evaporate, keeping seeds dry. Unfortunately, paper packets are not waterproof or pest resistant–so you’ll want to store groups of paper packets in another container.
Many folks use Ziploc bags, but plastic bins are even better and will keep insects, rodents, and birds out of your seed stock. You can also keep bulk seeds in glass jars–just check the jars frequently to make sure that the seeds aren’t growing mold.
Another option for seed storage is freezing. As long as seeds are completely dry, most seeds freeze incredibly well, and some seeds will keep for ten years when frozen. Prior to freezing seeds, let the seeds rest with a desiccant packet for a day or two to completely dry out the seeds–residual moisture may cause seeds to split and crack at freezing temperatures.
If you intend to store your seeds for three years or less, freezing isn’t necessary. But if you want to keep seeds alive for more than a few years (and you have extra space in your freezer) freezing is the way to go.
What information do seed packets include?
Seeds ‘N Such seed packets are value-oriented and contain useful information about the variety and the plant species. Each seed packet clearly identifies the plant species, variety name, number of seeds in the packet, lot number, germination rate, and ‘packed for’ date. The back of the seed packet details planting information for the plant species.
Some seed packets may contain acronyms or other unfamiliar terms–check out this article for more information on how to read seed packets.
How much do seed packets cost?
At Seeds ‘N Such we make it a mission to keep non-GMO seeds accessible to everyone. Our seed packets start at $3.99 each, and the more you buy, the more you save. When you buy 20 or more seed packets, pricing drops to $3.25 a packet, so stock up for the most savings! View our Mix ‘n Match guidelines for more information.
How many seed packets do I need?
Not sure how many seed packets you’ll need in total? This post highlights some helpful resources and this article features three garden plans to help you determine how many packets you need to fill a given area or to feed a certain number of people.
How do I find out if my seeds are still good?
At Seeds ‘N Such, we pledge to use only untreated and non-GMO seeds. Because our seeds are the best on the market, they’re very likely to maintain their quality for a year or more past purchase. But if you’re not sure how old your seeds are, or if you think that their storage might have been compromised, there’s an easy way to test for lot germination.
Detailed instructions on how to germ test your seeds are outlined in this article, but the simple test involves moistening a paper towel with water, placing a few seeds on the paper towel, and placing the paper towel in an unsealed plastic bag. After a few days to a week, any viable seeds should have sprouted, alerting you to an approximate germination rate for that batch of seeds.
If you have leftover seeds from last year, no need to worry. Chances are many of your seeds are still good for at least another year, and maybe even longer. If in doubt about whether or not your seeds are still good to plant, you can always order more!