If you are sorting through old seed packets through the winter months use this handy table to decide whether seeds are worth keeping. For more info on seed viability, proper storage and testing seeds before the main sowing season, see Amateur Gardening 21 Jan 2012, available at news agents and other outlets from 17 Jan.

Veg and flower seeds and how long they are at their best:

Veg seed No of years Flower seed No of years
Asparagus 3 Ageratum 4
Aubergine 5 Amaranthus 4-5
Beans 3 Anthemis 2
Beetroot 4 Anthirrhium 3-4
Broccoli 5 Calendula 5-6
Brussels sprouts 5 Celosia 4
Cabbage 4-5 Cineraria 3-4
Carrot 3-4 Clarkia 2-3
Cauliflower 4-5 Cosmos 3-4
Celeriac 5 Digitalis 2
Celery 5-6 Eschscholzia 3
Chicory 5 Gaillardia 2-3
Chinese cabbage 5 Godetia 3
Cucumber 5-6 Helianthus 2-3
Endive 3-4 Heliotrope 1-2
Fennel 4 Hollyhock 2-3
Kale 5 Impatiens 2
Kohl rabi 5 Larkspur 1-2
Leek 3 Linaria 3
Lettuce 4-5 Linum 1-2
Marrow 5-6 Lobelia 4
Melon 5 Marigold 2-3
Onion 1-2 Mesembryanthemum 3-4
Parsley 2-3 Myosotis 2
Parsnip 1-2 Nasturtium 5-7
Pea 3 Nicotiana 4-5
Pepper 4 Nigella 2
Pumpkin 4 Pansy 2
Radish 5 Petunia 2-3
Salsify 2 Phlox 2
Scorzonera 2 Salvia 1
Seakale 1-2 Schizanthus 4-5
Spinach 5 Sweet peas 2-3
Sweetcorn 1-2 Sweet William 2
Tomato 4 Viola 1
Turnip 5 Wallflower 4-5
Watercress 5 Zinnia 5-6