How to Check the Viability of Old Seeds

How to Check the Viability of Old Seeds

Will Your Old Seeds Still Grow

How to Check the Viability of Old Seeds

I’ve been happily pouring through seed catalogs and online seed stores (my favorite) lately, getting ready to buy as many seeds as I can. I soon realized that I wanted lots and lots of plants, but that doesn’t really work with my gardening budget. Sometimes I wonder why I have to buy 50(+) seeds of one type of plant, when I often only want ONE of those plants to be in my garden. So I started wondering if I could save some money on this year’s gardening budget if I used up some old seeds.

I did some quick research on how to check the viability of old seeds, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to do this seed test. Of course, old seeds will only be viable if they have been properly stored. Fortunately, mine were in the correct storage from our last big move: proper seed storage should be in a dark, cool place. Our home is never warm (we like our temps around 60 degrees in the winter), so besides the first few weeks in our new home last summer when we did not yet have air conditioning, our home has been cool enough for the seeds. I kept all of the old seed packets in a box in my laundry room, so they have stayed in the dark as well. 


How to Check Your Old Seeds:


  • paper towels
  • sandwich bags (that will seal)
  • marker
  • old seeds
  • bowl of water (I LOVE my Pyrex!)



  1. Use your marker and label the bags for your seeds. 
  2. Place 1 piece of paper towel in the bowl of water. Soak through, and then squeeze out excess water. You want the paper towel to be moist, not dripping wet.
  3. Put 10 seeds of one seed packet on the paper towel, evenly spaced. 


      4. Gently fold the paper towel and place it into the properly labeled sandwich bag. Push out the excess air and seal it. 

      5. Continue until all your old seed samples are complete. Store in a warm place, like on top of a refrigerator.

      6. Check daily to make sure the paper towels do not get dry.

      7. Between 7-10 days later, check the seeds to see if any of them have sprouted. For each seed sample, count how many of those have germinated and that is your germination rate for your seed packet. So, for example, if 6 out of 10 broccoli seeds sprouted, your old broccoli seed packet has a 60% germination rate.

      8. Anything less than a 60% germination rate should be discarded and you should buy new ones of that type of seed. However, if you like to be frugal, you can still plant them and know that only a few of them are likely grow…so plant them thickly!



So, as you can tell from my picture, I have lots of old seeds that I am checking. Fingers crossed that most of them are still viable and ready to be planted! That would be great on my gardening budget! πŸ™‚

For the seeds that aren’t viable I just order a few packs of high-quality seeds from here.

Have you ever tested your seeds before? Let me know in the comments below!


Will Your Old Seeds Still Grow Try this Seed Test!

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. I was looking at my seeds just today.i had them in my closet which is around 75 degrees. Thanks for the info

  2. I guess you could say I “tested” – I went ahead and used a 8 pack tray to plant some 24 year old original BeefSteak tomato seeds.
    Every one of them germinated!
    I have always kept seeds in either their packets or clean pill bottles (from the pharmacy) and stored them in my refrigerator.
    Always and without fail.
    I’m guessing it keeps them indefinitely dormant.

    1. Yes! I am planning on keeping my extra seeds in the fridge. It’s a great tip! Glad to hear it works so well for you.

  3. I have 10000’s of seeds. Do not know where to start. Help.

    1. Ah! I’d love to know the story about how you got so many seeds. πŸ™‚ Good luck!

    2. I’ll take some …….ha ha
      I’m also new at this gardening and finding a lot of information.
      But I am only using Organic and Heirloom.
      I’m also a 63 yr old female & have started using containers. Will also have a Fall garden – hopefully a winter.
      Will have to wait & see if I can afford it.

    3. I bet you could package and sell in smaller quantities or just find people where you live who might want them. OR find a way to Store longer-term and later when you & others are going to need to grow more produce.

      1. Some areas offer “seed libraries” where you go to your local library and get seeds that have been donated by other patrons. At the end of the season you return seeds harvested from what you’ve grown to replenish the supply. This is a great way to make sure that the seeds are used by someone who really wants them and to carry on heirloom varieties of plants and veggies.

  4. I’m going to give this a try. I’ve wondered about using old seeds and how to check for viability. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  5. Will the seeds not get humid in the refrigerator?

    1. I don’t think so. If you have them in airtight containers, they should be fine.

  6. If old seeds germinate,is there ever any effect there might be on the health of the plant or it’s production of fruit or vegetables?

    1. Good question…I haven’t seen any decline in the plant’s health from old seeds. If they germinate, they have proven their vitality, I think. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  7. Yes used to do this with damp kitchen roll on a Hirt heat mat. Still usually ended up chucking them in to make sure they were dead anyway🐝

  8. How about the freezer? I have several kinds of seeds that I tossed in my freezer at least 4 years ago… Do you think they would still be good?

    1. Try this test with them! The freezer should be good for storing seeds. πŸ™‚ Only one way to find out!

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