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Saving Seeds

By Elizabeth Takakjian


Gardeners often end the season with a collection of seed packets – both partials and unopened. What to do? Toss them? Tuck them into the corner of your shed until next season when you rediscover them and wonder if they are worth planting.

Just how may years is a leftover tomato seed or a cucumber seed viable for? Is the sell by date on the seed package the end of its viability? The chart below lists the minimum viability for vegetables given no special care.


Source: University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Use these simple steps to below to save your excess garden seed and join the ranks of the environmentally frugal and friendly gardeners ensuring that excess seed from this season will be viable well beyond those sell by dates printed on your seed packages.

  • Open, individual seed packets can be placed in seal-able plastic bags.
  • Seed collections can then be placed in plastic containers like shoe, fishing or tackle boxes or even in glass containers. Then they can be organized alphabetically or in groupings that work with your garden rotation plan. I like to group them in seed families.
  • Include a desiccant if your storage area tends to be humid.
  • Place your seed collection in the garage, basement or in a refrigerator.

If you participate in a community garden schedule an end of the season seed session to share proper storing techniques or a January seed inventory session to compare whats on hand with the the delightful offerings in the onslaught of seed catalogs that arrive during that time.

Click here a comprehensive information on how to collect and save seeds from your garden.

Elizabeth Takakjian is a Program Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program, as well as a Master Gardener. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 325 or at


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