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! 🙂

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!

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  1. I like germinating the seeds individually then planting the ones that pop. I use a process similar to this seed checking to see if the seeds are viable and to start them on their journey.

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