pumpkin soup

Baked pumpkin seeds accent a bowl of curried butternut squash soup. ATTRIBUTION: Valerie Hinojosa (Flickr)

After the growing season has come and gone, you may be left with extra fruit, vegetable, or flower seeds. Instead of simply throwing these seeds away, I prefer to store or reuse them as not to be wasteful. If properly stored, most plant seeds can be used from one year to the next. Whether you have leftover packaged seeds or have harvested seeds from your own garden, there are numerous uses for your leftover seeds.


If you have leftover seeds that you purchased or harvested this year, consider storing them for next year’s garden. Depending on the plant species, your seeds may be capable of germination for one to five years. For example, corn, onion, and parsley seeds generally last one to two years, while carrot, beet, lettuce, pea, and radish seeds have an average lifespan of three to five years.

When storing store-bought seeds, try to save the seeds in their original packages. Use a piece of tape to secure the opening of the package to prevent oxygen from reaching the seeds. Store your packaged seeds in a dry container with a fitted top, such as an old coffee can. Do not leave packaged seeds in an open container, as unwanted pests may try to make your seeds their next meal.

Seeds can be harvested from your garden when the plants are mature. Once gathered, rinse the seeds in a colander and allow them to dry out on a cookie sheet covered in paper towels. Place your dried seeds in labeled paper envelopes. Like packaged seeds, your home harvested seeds should be stored in a dry, cool place that is free of rodents and insects, like inside a covered jar or coffee can.


Prefer to eat your leftover seeds? There are many dishes that you can make containing fruit, vegetable, and flower seeds. For example, sunflower seeds can be used in cookies, breads, muffins, and other tasty treats to boost the nutritional content. Pumpkin seeds are also popular in cooking and baking. Their sweet and nutty flavor makes them an ideal addition to soups, salads, cereals, and various baked goods.


If you have a lot of extra seeds or are simply looking to discover new plant species to use in your garden, consider hosting or participating in a seed swap. A seed swap is a type of event where gardeners meet and exchange their excess seeds. Most seed swap events occur in the late fall or early spring and can be as big or small of an event as desired. If you’re hosting a seed swap, be sure to establish guidelines before the event to ensure that all participants leave with their fair share of seeds.


Seeds range in color, shape, size, and texture, making them excellent for decorating. Use seeds and other natural materials from your garden to create a holiday wreath. Seeds can also be glued to pumpkins, candles, ornaments, and other fall and winter décor items to make them more festive. Or you could glue seeds to canvas board to create seasonal wall décor.