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Hanging on to seed from year to year?  RSS feed

 
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When I keep seeds from one variety, say a bean variety over multiple years, should I just keep some seed from every year I grow it, or should I plant older seed in while maintaining some more recent seed?

I'm several years into seed saving now and my seed collection is growing extremely quickly. Between seed saving my 2018 crops and buying new varieties this year, I've got something like 130 new sets of seed. I've also got everything that I grew in the previous two years, although that is much less. Right now, I have limited storage space and my collection, which is labeled well in various bags and containers, is not organized well. Sometimes I pull out a container of bean seed and check the label and it's the 2016 or 2017 seed instead of the 2018 seed.

My question is really, should I keep that 2016 and 2017 seed tucked away somewhere, as a just in case? I have 2018 seed, which I won't be planting all of anyway in order to keep a reserve of good seed in case of crop failure. Do you rotate your seed to make sure nothing is getting too old? Should I just throw the 2016 and 2017 seed in with the partial 2018 because I can?

I don't particularly want to freeze more current seed because I'm traveling between my home location and growing location and I already leave many other things in each location that I need at the other, and I know I would forget to pull it out when needed. But should I stick the 2016 and 2017 seed in the freezer? Just in case? What do you all do?

This is for plants that I'm keeping as a variety, generally beans and peas and tomatoes because they're all easy to relatively isolate.

I've got some breeding projects planned that I will be keeping old seed for, which I would love organization advice for that as well.
 
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I Would start looking into long term seed storage . This article explains how to keep them for a good 10 years.

https://preparednessmama.com/diy-seed-vault/

I Would take a look at local seeds swaps or this website has a yearly seed swap that just went by: https://garden.org

My local library is doing an urban gardening seed  check out where you can check out 3 packets and return it with the seeds saved. If you fail at growing the checked out seed you just bring in some seeds of the same value  that you checked out.

And of you could always sell your seeds on kijiiji or Craigs list to be used this year at in gardening starter package for 10 to 20 bucks. I am sure lots of people would be interested.

If hadn't bought all my seeds this year I would probly be bumming for a package.

Or heck you could do a version of the winter jacket on trees for the needy/ftwd highway box and hang a zip lock bag full of seeds with a message to take what you need and leave what you don't.
 
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If I'm hoping that the seeds will adapt to my garden, I plant the newest seed.  I'll hold onto the older seed as insurance.

Once you start saving seed you end up with much more seed than you need.  One way to keep your genetic diversity up is to collect less seed but do it from more plants/fruits.  Then mix multiple years seed together when you plant.  That way fewer of the seeds will be "related" and you'll have more diversity.  
 
pollinator
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One advantage to storing seed over multiple years is that you can maintain varieties that cross-pollinate, like corn or squash, by simply growing one variety one year and another the next, and alternating thus indefinitely, keeping both varieties pure.  Since these seeds easily store for several years, you could keep three or four varieties indefinitely, and also reserve a season to plant two and experiment with letting the cross, etc.
 
Natasha Flue
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Once you start saving seed you end up with much more seed than you need.  One way to keep your genetic diversity up is to collect less seed but do it from more plants/fruits.  Then mix multiple years seed together when you plant.  That way fewer of the seeds will be "related" and you'll have more diversity.  



Yeah, that's why I was thinking about planting the older seed. I might do this or maybe wait until I get another year or two of seeds before planting the mix.

One advantage to storing seed over multiple years is that you can maintain varieties that cross-pollinate, like corn or squash, by simply growing one variety one year and another the next, and alternating thus indefinitely, keeping both varieties pure.  Since these seeds easily store for several years, you could keep three or four varieties indefinitely, and also reserve a season to plant two and experiment with letting the cross, etc.



That's true. I'm a little less concerned about this because I don't grow a ton of varieties I care about that cross pollinate a lot. This is the first year I'll be saving squash seed but I will definitely have to hand pollinate due to my parents' pumpkin crops being nearby. I guess to some extent it will come down to what I want from the crops, which right now is food and fun and how much effort I'm really likely to put into hand pollinating things. And I like having the consistency of certain crops every year. This is a really good idea though!
 
pollinator
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQEdEkDEix8


Many different causes, but this is one of them.
 
pollinator
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For 20 year storage it can be dried down and frozen. Dry it further, then freeze in a tightly sealed container. Bring to room temp before opening.

Carol Deppe has detailed instructions in her "Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties"

My collection has exceeded my capacity to grow. I need to freeze part of it.
 
Natasha Flue
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For 20 year storage it can be dried down and frozen. Dry it further, then freeze in a tightly sealed container. Bring to room temp before opening.



I don't actually see a reason to keep seeds in a freezer for 20 years. One, my freezer isn't probably going to last that long and two, genetic shifting in my populations are going to keep adapting my varieties so in 20 years, it might be a lot different. Granted, inbreeders aren't going to change that much but I just don't really see a reason. Plus my growing conditions and methods are probably going to change a lot over time. My freezer space has better uses for things I will eat within the next year or so.

I'm talking about year to year hanging onto seed. Do I need to keep a cup of bean seed from 2016 when I've got a quart grown out in 2018 that I will set some aside in case of crop failure?
 
William Schlegel
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Depends, well stored older seed might be worth it. Some of your older seed lots might turn out to have better germination than your newer seed. I would plant it, eat it, give it away, trade it, or compost it depending on my needs and space.

You could also germination test it. That might inform your decision.
 
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I am moving more and more towards a system where I only keep one jar of seed for each variety/species (at least on varieties that maintain their viability for years). So for example with dry bush beans, I'll decide how much bean seed I want to save for planting, and for an archive, and for sharing, and I'll save that much seed. With beans, it might be a two quart jar. Then each year, after harvest, I'll dump out all but 1/3 of the seed in the jar, and refill with fresh seed. So that keeps seed around from previous years, but I don't have to keep track of it separately. Then I eat the excess seed, or feed it to animals, or donate it, or whatever. I'm cautious to do germination testing before adding seed willy-nilly to the common seed lot.  

When I receive new seeds, I open the packets, and dump the seeds into the jar that is set aside for that species. For example, my jar of "incoming" tomato seeds might have several hundred varieties in it. Then when I feel like trialing non-locally-adapted tomatoes, I'll take a pinch of seed out of the jar and plant it. I don't much care if they life or die. Anything that survives, and that I enjoy,  can go the next year into the jar labeled, "short-season tomatoes". That jar is maintained in the same way. Jumbled up varieties of things that have grown well in my garden in some previous year. No names. No stories. Just genetics that have done well in spite of my habits.
beans-lofthouse-dry-bush.jpg
[Thumbnail for beans-lofthouse-dry-bush.jpg]
Dry bush beans
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I am moving more and more towards a system where I only keep one jar of seed for each variety/species (at least on varieties that maintain their viability for years). So for example with dry bush beans, I'll decide how much bean seed I want to save for planting, and for an archive, and for sharing, and I'll save that much seed. With beans, it might be a two quart jar. Then each year, after harvest, I'll dump out all but 1/3 of the seed in the jar, and refill with fresh seed. So that keeps seed around from previous years, but I don't have to keep track of it separately. Then I eat the excess seed, or feed it to animals, or donate it, or whatever. I'm cautious to do germination testing before adding seed willy-nilly to the common seed lot.  

When I receive new seeds, I open the packets, and dump the seeds into the jar that is set aside for that species. For example, my jar of "incoming" tomato seeds might have several hundred varieties in it. Then when I feel like trialing non-locally-adapted tomatoes, I'll take a pinch of seed out of the jar and plant it. I don't much care if they life or die. Anything that survives, and that I enjoy,  can go the next year into the jar labeled, "short-season tomatoes". That jar is maintained in the same way. Jumbled up varieties of things that have grown well in my garden in some previous year. No names. No stories. Just genetics that have done well in spite of my habits.



Joseph, thank you for writing this! Lots of ideas and inspiration.

How many jars of dry beans do you keep? And what categories do you have for them?

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Liv Smith wrote:How many jars of dry beans do you keep? And what categories do you have for them?



For most of the bean species that I grow, I only keep one jar: Limas, favas, cowpeas, teparies, runners, all end up in a single jar per species. With these, I tend to plant all of the incoming seed, since they seem to be specialty crops and I don't receive a lot of seeds, and I have one field that I devote mostly to beans, so there is plenty of space.

With common beans, I have a number of breeding projects going on, so I keep multiple jars:

Incoming beans.
Frost tolerant beans.
Dry bush beans.
Dry pole beans.

With the bush beans, I keep a jar of bulk seed which I plant for eating, and a jar of sorted seeds which I plant for production of seed-for-planting.

If I find seeds that I suspect might be naturally occurring hybrids, or that seem intriguing to me, I'll put them into a plastic bag which goes into the jar of bulk seed. Then I can plant them separately.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have all kinds of seeds laying around from before I adopted this strategy. They do not bring me joy. Therefore, as I sort through them, I am feeding them to the chickens, or tossing them into the wildlands so that they can attempt to grow.
 
Natasha Flue
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I am moving more and more towards a system where I only keep one jar of seed for each variety/species (at least on varieties that maintain their viability for years). So for example with dry bush beans, I'll decide how much bean seed I want to save for planting, and for an archive, and for sharing, and I'll save that much seed. With beans, it might be a two quart jar. Then each year, after harvest, I'll dump out all but 1/3 of the seed in the jar, and refill with fresh seed. So that keeps seed around from previous years, but I don't have to keep track of it separately. Then I eat the excess seed, or feed it to animals, or donate it, or whatever. I'm cautious to do germination testing before adding seed willy-nilly to the common seed lot.  



This is a really excellent idea and definitely interesting! It seems like it would be a good strategy for something like my beans, where I don't necessarily care about the year to year variations, just that I've got plenty to plant for this year and I'll keep some around in case of crop failure.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have all kinds of seeds laying around from before I adopted this strategy. They do not bring me joy. Therefore, as I sort through them, I am feeding them to the chickens, or tossing them into the wildlands so that they can attempt to grow.



I've already got a bunch of seed from various things that I need to trade/give away/get rid of so I'm in a similar situation, plus three years of beans from four different varieties, so things are adding up very quickly!

Thanks Joseph!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Natasha Flue wrote:I've already got a bunch of seed from various things that I need to trade/give away/get rid of so I'm in a similar situation, plus three years of beans from four different varieties, so things are adding up very quickly!



I tend to munge my varieties together into a single species group. Therefore, seeds lose their names and stories as soon as they get to my garden. They get to grow and earn a place in my garden in each generation, rather than relying on names/stories that were told long ago in far away places.

Sure, I keep different kinds of corn, based on usage, such as sweetcorn or popcorn, but to me, sweet corn is sweet corn. I invited many hundreds of varieties of sweet corn into my garden, but I only maintain a few varieties of sweetcorn seed.
 
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