How Do I Know If My Old Seeds Will Grow?

Sowing parsley seed in pots, close-up
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Question: How Do I Know If My Old Seeds Will Grow?

I have some old seeds saved from years past. How will I know if it's worth planting them? The look fine, but some are over two years old.


Saving and starting your own herb seeds is a great way to garden for little more than pennies each year. Everyone knows that seeds have some sort of lifespan, but what is it? How do you know that your seeds from last year(or the year before), will still grow?

If your seeds have been kept cool and dry, with no visible mold growth on them, rest assured that they will keep for many years. This vague response is not to leave you wondering, it is simply that there is not definite number of years for each seed's life. What does happen, is the seeds lose viability. This means that less and less of them germinate as time passes.

Seed viability is important to know. If you want 10 plants of dill and you have 20 seeds, do you plant 10 seeds? By doing a simple seed viability test, you can estimate how many seeds extra (if any) that you will need to plant, in order to ensure you have at least the 10 you are looking for. This year, it may be a smaller number of extra seeds than it will be two years from now and you plant more from this same packet.