As a new season of the year approaches, novice gardeners who have leftover seeds might wonder if they should toss out their packets or hold onto them for next year.
This could be especially of interest to Americans who are making fruit and vegetable gardens a priority as this year’s inflation continues to hit grocery staples.
Gardening experts have a few tricks up their sleeves for storing seeds.
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO GARDENING
Here are four smart gardening tips for those who would like to save seeds for a future harvest.
Most store-bought seeds and seed-filled produce are “hybrid varieties” and typically do not yield seeds that can germinate and reproduce, according to Justin West, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based co-founder and CEO of Thrive Lot, an online gardening platform.
GARDENING 101: HOW TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD AS INFLATION MAINTAINS A HISTORIC HIGH
“If you want to store seeds and repopulate your gardens and orchards, you need to start with heirloom varieties,” he told Fox News Digital.
West said almost all heirloom seeds can last a year or more if they’re stored properly.
“Lettuce, peppers, parsnips and onions will only last a couple of years,” West said.
HOW GARDEN SITTERS HELP KEEP PLANTS ALIVE DURING END-OF-SUMMER TRAVEL
“The longest lasting seeds are beans and corn,” he said.
“Beans have been sprouted after over 100 years in ideal storage conditions.”
Saving seeds for future planting can be done, but gardeners should ensure their storage plans will keep the seeds in optimum conditions.
“The seeds should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight,” said Stacie Krljanovic, head groundskeeper and adviser at Patio Productions, an outdoor furniture and garden marketplace in San Diego, Calif.
Garden seeds need to be kept in a sealed container to avoid mold and mildew growth, she told Fox News Digital.
She said it’s also important to keep seeds away from heat sources, such as radiators or heaters, because these heat-generating devices can dry out seeds and make them unusable if care isn’t taken.
CHRISTMAS TREE SUPPLY IN 2022: WILL DROUGHT AFFECT THE HOLIDAY SEASON?
“Make sure your seed storage area is rodent-proof so that mice, rats or other pests don’t eat your seeds before you’re ready to plant them,” Krljanovic added.
Carrots, cucumbers, peas and tomatoes can usually be stored for up five years, according to Krljanovic.
Meanwhile, zucchini and spinach can usually be stored for up to eight years — while onions and garlic can usually be stored for up to 10 years.
In the Northern Hemisphere, most fruit and vegetable seeds can be planted in the spring, according to West of Thrive Lot.
He recommends gardeners start off their new plants indoors, so that those plants have the best chance of success.
“For young fruit trees especially, you [can] start them in small pots and keep them well watered until late fall, then plant them just after the first frost,” West told Fox News Digital.
Vegetables, on the other have, have an ideal growing season, according to West.
“Many [vegetables], like lettuce, can be grown multiple times per year depending on your climate,” he said.
“So, you can start some lettuce in early spring, some in the summer and even more in the fall [across] most of the U.S.”
Some seeds require cooler weather to germinate, while others require heat, said Katie Burdett, owner of Growing with Gertie, an organic gardening and slow food blog. She’s based in Lakeside, Mich.
“Plant cool-loving seeds like lettuce, spinach, kale, radish, turnip and bok choy in the spring and fall for the best results,” Burdett told Fox News Digital.
She added, “Other heat-loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, corn and zucchini should be planted in late spring or early summer, depending on your growing zone.”
While most seeds can be saved for future use, gardeners can test their viability before planting them in an outdoor garden bed.
“If you find older seeds that you want to use, you can do a germination test,” said Deborah Niemann, a six-time homestead author in Joliet, Ill.
She also owns and operates the Thrifty Homesteader, a self-reliant living blog and academy.
FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK FOR MORE FOX LIFESTYLE NEWS
Niemann said germination tests can help gardeners find out if their seeds are any good if they sprout after being exposed to water.
She recommends soaking seeds for a few hours (ideally in a jar with a sprouting lid), draining them of water and rinsing them several times in a two- or three-day period to keep the seeds moist.
Alternatively, for small seeds, Niemann recommends using wet paper towels to add moisture if a sprouting lid isn’t available.
The paper towels can be misted several times a day; or lightly wrapping them in plastic keeps the seeds moist.
Germination timelines vary by plant, so it’s best to consult seed packets to see how long it will take moistened seeds to sprout, said Niemann.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER
“By doing a germination test, you won’t waste time planting seeds that are no longer viable,” Niemann told Fox News Digital.