Storing Seeds for Long-Term Seed Saving – Tenth Acre Farm

Whether you’ve saved your own seeds from the garden or purchased quality seeds, storing them correctly will allow you to keep them as long as possible. Here are some tips for successfully storing garden seeds and how to keep them in the best condition for long-term storage.

Storing Seeds for Long-Term Seed Saving

Reading: Seeds for long term storage

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the disappointment of storing seeds incorrectly

We’ve all been there: saving leftover seeds over the winter (because we gardeners are a frugal bunch and why would we throw away seeds?). when spring comes, we plant them with enthusiasm, eagerly awaiting the appearance of buds. and we wait a little longer.

Finally, we realize that the seeds we’re saving seem to be bad, and so a hopeful gardening season starts on a disappointing note and suddenly we’re behind schedule.

The following are some tactics to help you care for those precious seeds you have so that they not only last as long as possible, but are also stored at their best quality for a successful spring planting. (or at least in the case of failure we can rule out seed quality as the culprit!)

start with completely dry seeds

I can’t overstate the importance of starting with dry seeds!

for example, one of my favorite seeds to save is coriander, but I always wait a few days after a rain before harvesting the seeds and let them dry up to a month before saving them.

The two biggest enemies of stored seeds are high temperatures and high humidity.”

—Suzanne Ashworth, Seed to Seed: Growing and Seed Saving Techniques for Horticulturists

so if you have saved your own seeds, make sure they are completely dry before saving.

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The Permaculture Inspired Vegetable Garden

the best conditions to store seeds

airtight containers are important for storing seeds; the containers can be made of glass, metal or plastic. I store my seeds in seed packets in a large, airtight plastic container. however, I also like to use mason jars, but I rely less on them when I’m out planting. I’m always worried about falling and breaking glass in the garden!

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I also save the silica gel packets that come in shoeboxes and vitamin bottles and add them to my seed storage containers for moisture protection. if you don’t have any of these things lying around, they’re inexpensive to buy and can be reused over and over again.

here are the gel packs i bought in the past.

Seeds should be stored in a dry, dark place with consistently cool temperatures, such as a cupboard. I keep my seeds in the dark cellar.

storing seeds in the freezer for long-term storage

For long-term storage, or if you don’t have a basement or cupboard with consistent temperatures, consider freezing (bone dry) seeds in a glass jar. the refrigerator is second best, as temperatures are not as constant there.

recovery of seeds from the freezer or refrigerator

This part is so important to maintain the quality of the seeds!

to retrieve seeds from the freezer for use:

  1. Place the jar on a kitchen counter or shelf for 12 hours to come to room temperature. this will prevent moisture from condensing on the seeds. (remember, moisture = enemy #1)!
  2. expose the seeds to air by opening the lid for a few days before planting.

Refrain from moving seeds from the room temperature freezer more than once, as each transfer will reduce seed viability.

organizing seeds: make sure you can find & use those well stored seeds!

Having a system for keeping seeds organized allows you to take inventory of the seeds you have, so you don’t end up buying seeds you already own. It can also help you keep track of your seeds by age, so the oldest seeds are used first and expired seeds are composted instead of planted.

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Each packet of seeds has a date of origin, which is the date the seeds were collected. (If you collect your own seeds, be sure to date your own packets!) Using this number can help you quickly filter seed packets and categorize them by year if necessary.

I like to organize the seeds in two ways: card catalog style and mason jar style. the organization of your storage will largely depend on your lifestyle and environment, but whatever style you choose, make sure it’s an airtight solution that keeps seeds dry and fresh.

don’t forget your silica gel packets!

organizing seeds with the card catalog style

Are you old enough to remember library card catalogues? use a rectangular airtight container that is deep enough to store upright seed packets. make sure the lid fits snugly when full. I love this method because all the seed packets live together in one or two containers.

Dividers can help you find things even faster. seeds of a certain type can be listed in order of their date of origin, so the oldest seeds are used first.

Would you like free resources like calendars, checklists, and planting worksheets to help you get organized?

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You will get these bonus materials with the purchase of my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro Farm!

The Suburban Micro-Farm Book

arranging seeds mason jar style

Glass jars allow you to store seeds in smaller units. for example, you can store short-lived seeds in the freezer to ensure viability until the next growing season, while longer-lived seeds can be stored well under the bed or in a cupboard.

How you organize your mason jars will depend on your storage needs and how many seeds you are storing. if you’re a tomato lover, store all your tomato varieties together in a mason jar.

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or try themed jar gardens (which make great gifts!). seeds for a spring garden, salad garden, or salsa garden can be stored well together in a jar.

Regardless of how you organize your seeds, be sure to keep track of the origin dates of the seeds.

seed viability

As seeds age, their germination rate naturally decreases. all seeds will remain viable for at least a year, and proper seed storage can allow many seeds to remain viable longer. Here’s an idea of ​​how long different types of seeds can last with optimal storage conditions:

short-lived seeds (1 to 2 years):

  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Pepper
  • Sweet corn

intermediate seeds (3 to 4 years old):

  • beans
  • beets
  • cabbage family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabaga, etc.)
  • carrot
  • celery
  • eggplant
  • leek
  • pea
  • pumpkin
  • spinach
  • pumpkin
  • tomato
  • turnip
  • watermelon

long life seeds (5 to 6 years):

  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • radish

take out the seeds in spring

If you need some tips to get your seeds growing in the spring, check out my guide to planting seeds indoors.

tip: dump expired seeds in a wild section of the garden. sometimes they produce a surprise harvest! In our community garden, we have a “seed toss” every year at the kick-off party. it was fun to see what would grow in the wilderness! In my backyard, I have a little surprise crop of butternut squash!

Overall, storing seeds correctly will allow you to get the most out of your investment and have a successful growing season with high quality seeds.

What is your favorite method of storing seeds?

read next:

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  • how to prepare for the winter garden
  • protect cold weather crops with a cold frame
  • when to start seeds: your guide to fall planting

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