So is it worth trying to keep those few seeds for next year?
You know the feeling: You have a box or drawer full of half-empty seed packets, but you just can't bring yourself to throw them away. So is it worth trying to keep those few seeds for next year?
The answer? Yes, but you need to take some precautions. Seeds lose their viability (ability to germinate) at different rates, depending on the species and even the variety, according to Diana Jancik, home garden vegetable seed sales manager for Novartis Seeds in Twin Falls, Idaho. Even scientists can't pinpoint the longevity of a particular seed lot.
"Producers of seed for the gardening market constantly run tests to ensure the most vigorous seed," Jancik says. "The surest way to have the healthiest seed quality is to buy anew each year."
That said, if you do save your own seeds and are willing to accept some loss of viability, remember that heat, moisture, and (in some cases) exposure to light can hurt seeds. Seal packets in plastic or put seeds in sterile glass jars or tins. Crystals of antidessicant gel--which should be available from a local drugstore--will absorb moisture in the jar or container.
Store seeds in a cool, dry, dark place that's free of insects or pests. Temps below 39 degrees F are best. Even in ideal conditions, however, expect the germination rate of saved seed to decline each year.