Storing Seeds

Sharon March 19th, 2008

One of the essential elements of growing your own is having enough seed - as y’all know, this is a big subject for me this month.  One of the most important ways of staying secure is knowing how to store seed so that it will stay viable as long as possible.

 So, if you want to store seed for more than one year, you have several options.

 1. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry place. 

-This will enable your seeds to have about the usual storage life.  The estimated storage life of seeds is listed here.  I would note, however, that this is one of those YMMV things - I’ve had no trouble keeping spinach seed for several years, for example.   If you have a fridge, are very, very careful not to let them get moist (use silica gel and package them carefully), you can keep them in the fridge.  Me, I’ve got way too many seeds for that.

 2. Vacuum Pack Them

- Lack of air exposures will extend the seed’s life a bit.  You can buy pre-canned and vacuum packed seeds or pack them yourself with a food saver or a straw.  Remember, they still have to be cool and dark.  This should add at a minimum one year to their lifespan.

3. Freeze them.  Thanks to Pat Meadows for explaining how to do this to me.

-Obviously, this only works while the power is on, but will substantially extend the life of your seeds while the freezer is working.  I keep and use too many seeds to do this with all of mine, but I plan to use this technique for short lifespan seeds, such as onions, parsley and parsnips.

 Pat double packs her seeds in two layers of plastic, and before using them but after taking them out of the freezer, allows them 24 hours to come to room temperature before opening the packages, so that any condensation forms on the outside of the packet, not where it could hurt the seeds.

 Before you do any storing, however, make sure that any seed you grew yourself is completely dry and ready to be stored. 

And remember, never plant all your seed if you can avoid it - even the best gardeners have crop failures, and the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.  The reality is that seed varieties are lost all the time - it is never wise to assume that there will always be more of a particular variety.  So save a little extra, and store it carefully for next year.


5 Responses to “Storing Seeds”

  1. Anonymouson 21 Mar 2008 at 5:09 pm

    What about potatoes. I keep reading things that say don’t save your potatoes for planting — that in order to avoid disease you have to buy seed potatoes. How much of an issue is this?

  2. Greenpaon 22 Mar 2008 at 8:22 am

    In my experience (and that’s limited to - my own experiences!) - it’s a “moderate” concern. If your soil is exactly wrong, though, and you have to plant in the same piece repeatedly, it’s a BIG deal. If you have enough garden space that you can rotate where you put solanaceae- so that you don’t use the same ground without a full year at least “off” - and 2 years is better- then often you could “get away” with using your own potatoes, mostly by choosing only those that are flawless for seed.

    The consequences of being mistaken though can be a near total crop failure, which can be very painful.

  3. Idaho Locavoreon 22 Mar 2008 at 12:17 pm

    One thing you can try - and we plan to try this, this year here - is to grow your potatoes from start to finish under a very light polyester row cover. Most potato viruses are spread by insects, so the less access they have to the plants, the longer your seedstock *may* last. It’s dicey, but spunbonded polyester row covers are not very expensive, and can be reused, with care, for a couple or three seasons or so. So I think it’s worth a try, at least. Potatoes don’t need to be pollinated to bear their crop, so you won’t be losing anything but some potential seed pods. And if you want to try potatoes from seed, it’s actually much better to do the pollination yourself by hand rather than trust to the vagaries of nature, especially if you have more than one variety growing.

    In fact, if you plan to save most any kind of seed, some spunbonded row cover is a wonderful tool to have around. It’s good for building isolation cages for crops you don’t want to risk having crossed. Isolation cages won’t help out for all types of veggies, but for those that tend to want to cross rampantly with any nearby relative, they can greatly increase your chance of producing fairly pure seed.

  4. Anonymouson 26 Mar 2008 at 9:54 am

    Thanks for the tips!

  5. Chrison 22 Jun 2008 at 12:31 pm

    “…gang aft agley”

    Anytime I say this no one knows what I’m talking about. What a wealth of advice leavened with the random zingers. Thanks Sharon.

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