How to tell if saved seeds are still viable

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog seed jar 0124This mason jar is filled with some saved 'Brandy Boy' tomato seeds. The silica gel in the bottom keeps the seeds dry. Photo by Doug OsterIf you're like me, you've got countless packets of half used seeds.

I've been saving different varieties for 20 years.

Here's an easy way to test the seeds to see if it's worth the time to plant them.

Take 10 seed and fold them into a moist paper towel.

Put the paper towel in a Ziploc back and store it somewhere warm. I usually put them on top of the refrigerator.

In a week or so, check the back. If more than 50 percent of the seed germinated, they are worth sowing (in my opinion). If it's less than that, I put them in the compost pile. Hopefully a few will sprout in there and I'll enjoy some "compost surprise" plants.

Storing seeds the right way will make them last for years or decades.

They must be kept dry. Once a seed gets wet, then dries out, it won't sprout.

Seeds are living, breathing organisms and will benefit from a cool, dark location.

My packets are separated by variety and stored in air tight mason jars. The jars have silica gel in the bottom to make sure the seeds are as dry as possible. I bought mine at a craft store. Silica gel is often used to dry flowers.

The jars are put on shelves in the basement.

There are may varieties which are almost extinct, but they mean something to me. I enjoy growing them out each season.


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.