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Veg seed – advice on storing and buying
2 Jan

Veg seed – advice on storing and buying

Posted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg

The first seed catalogue has dropped through my letter box so the time has come to check my stock of vegetable seed ready for the start of the 2018 season. I begin by gathering up those packets which found their way into my greenhouse for further sowings as last season progressed and then I like to sort all the remaining packets into ‘planting order’ – varieties to be sown early in the year (parsnip, peas, Brussels sprouts, summer cabbage etc), first, progressing to those which will be needed later (squash, spring cabbage and so on). A discarded shoe box makes an ideal container for this task, being the perfect size to neatly hold most seed packets. Being a tidy person, I like to group my seed into families, brassicas, tomatoes, lettuce and so on, then put an elastic band round each so that they stay together.

Re-using old seed

Although veg and flower seeds represent great value for money (over 1300 lettuce seeds for under £2!), seed should still be treated as a precious commodity so try to be methodical when it comes to buying and storing it, rather than simply throwing half-used packets into the bin. Some seed companies are very generous when it comes to filling the packets, more than enough seed being provided for certain varieties, but as long as opened packets of seed have been stored in a cool, dry place the seed may be used in future years.

Veg seed longevity

Advice varies as to storage times, but here is a rough indication as to the life of the main types of veg seed:

Beetroot, Leaf Beet, Sweetcorn, Swede and Turnip

2 to 3 years

Onions, Spring Onions, Leeks and Peppers

Up to 3 years

Courgettes and Squash

2 to 4 years


2 to 5 years

Peas, Beans and Radish

3 to 5 years

Brassicas – Cabbages, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Kale etc



Up to 5 years


Up to 8 years

Cucumbers and Melons

Up to 10 years


In case you wonder why parsnips and carrots are not on the list, it’s because any unused seed is best discarded as germination can be tricky at the best of times - so always buy fresh seed each year. Please note: seed packets have to show a ‘use by’ date, some helpful seed producers repeating this on the small foil packet which contains the seed.

Buying new seed

When the time comes to replenishing your stock of veg seed, don’t be tempted to buy too many varieties or I can guarantee from personal experience that you will end up with packets of unused seed. Before buying, consider how much growing area you have in relation to the space that each plant will require in order to thrive and crop well and perhaps draw a simple plan of where you intend sowing each type of veg. I keep simple records of what I plant, where and when – a real help at the start of the new year. In order to do well, most vegetable plants need a lot of sun, some varieties, such as sweetcorn and outdoor tomatoes - more than others, so take this into account when planning.

Sales of veg seed overtook those of flower seed a few years ago and the large companies which specialise in vegetable seed each produce enticing lists, as well as a growing number of smaller, specialist seed producers offering organic and heritage varieties. Keep an eye open for local ‘seed swap’ events. I went to one a few years ago and acquired some wonderful heritage beetroot seeds and a smashing variety of highly scented sweet pea. As well as getting your hands on interesting seeds, either by exchange or a cash donation, such events are a great place to discuss gardening and pick up useful hints and tips. The Bristol Seed Swap takes place on Saturday 3rd February 2018 from 12:00–16:00 at The Station Cafe, Silver Street BS1 2AG. 

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