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How do you store your seed from year to year?  RSS feed

 
Alan Whitaker
Posts: 29
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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I've always stored my seed in a freezer. I have a 10 Cu.Ft. freezer full of seed right now. But I would like to get away from having to rely on electricity. I'm in NE TX where it is hot and humid during the summer and wet in the winter. I've tried storing seed without the freezer before, but after a couple of years, the seed usually won't germinate. I have onion seed that I've stored in the freezer for 9 years that still has decent germination rates. Anyhow, how would one store garden seed in this climate (hot, humid) without the use of electricity? I want to store for years, not year to year. Sometimes, I just can't get it all planted and I like to grow out different varieties and save seed, so I'm usually just growing one variety of each. So what is the latest and best way to do this?
 
Pete Shield
Posts: 11
Location: Maisons, Languedoc, France
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Alan,
I live off-grid so have limited freezer space. What I do is ensure the seeds are well dried, then put in envelopes- label well and then put them in a airtight plastic black box in the basement where the temperature is not always constant but the most stable climate I have.

It's not as good as a freezer, but most things seem to keep for 3-4 years, after that things get patchy.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9696
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Interior closets (not on exterior wall) often maintain a pretty steady temperature, might be a good place to store seeds. You could even improve an existing closet by insulating and sealing it to maintain a steady temperature.
 
Kat deZwart
Posts: 108
Location: Limburg, Netherlands, sandy loam
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cat chicken urban
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I'm really bad... i don't care that well for my seeds at all.
I keep seeds in envelopes in a few baskets that just stand around in my gardenroom.
Still, never problems with germination, despite roomtemperature and light.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Alan Whitaker wrote:I've always stored my seed in a freezer. I have a 10 Cu.Ft. freezer full of seed right now. But I would like to get away from having to rely on electricity. I'm in NE TX where it is hot and humid during the summer and wet in the winter. I've tried storing seed without the freezer before, but after a couple of years, the seed usually won't germinate. I have onion seed that I've stored in the freezer for 9 years that still has decent germination rates. Anyhow, how would one store garden seed in this climate (hot, humid) without the use of electricity? I want to store for years, not year to year. Sometimes, I just can't get it all planted and I like to grow out different varieties and save seed, so I'm usually just growing one variety of each. So what is the latest and best way to do this?


Hi Alan,

maintaining dry seeds in a steady, cool temperature is one of the best ways to maintain viability, in my experience. For most types of seeds, refrigeration or freezing is not necessary to enable good germination rates for 3+ years. Fully dehydrated dessicant packs (rechargable) added to seeds containers can help with humidity if the containers are sealed well. Vacuum sealing is another option to maintain viability. The manual "pump-n-seal" system is an option if you don't have electricity available, or would like to prepare for it's loss. To maintain cool temps without electricity in your climate, perhaps a buried, insulated box would work, if you don't have access to a full sized root cellar.

An option for seeds like onions, which often have a short shelf-life, growing out some each year is probably the best way to maintain the line. If you don't have the space on your property to allow for a good separation between varieties of the same species, isolation screens which can be placed over the patch going to seed can be fashioned pretty easily.

good luck!
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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If you use silica gel to keep it dry, please consider this:

from http://www.seedcontainers.net/a_guide_to_long-term_seed_preservation.html
The colour usually shown by silica gel is due to an indicator, added to see directly when it is dehydrated and when it has absorbed moisture. For many years, cobalt chloride (Cl2Co) has been used. This substance gives the dehydrated gel a strong blue colour and a pale pink colour to the gel having absorbed moisture. Recently, the European Union banned its use because of considering it carcinogen through inhalation. A search for new alternatives led to some iron salts, where the change in colour can be poorly distinguished. At present, the most advisable alternative is methyl violet, which gives the dehydrated gel an orange colour and a green colour to the hydrated gel.


So, those little packets you find in camera and electronics boxes, as well as 90%+ of what is sold retail is NOT suitable for food seeds.

P.S. The site listed in the quote has an excellent article on long term storage of seeds. They are doing it for decades.

 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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yeah, I don't use the dessicant with the color changing additives. I stick with bulk dessicant (buy it buy the pound, so you only have to buy it once) and package it yourself in coffee filters or other such wrapping. Replace the dessicant pack each time you go into the jar by keeping "charged" packs on hand in another container. The dessicant is recharged in a low temp oven for a few hours.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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Ziplock bags have worked for me in the past. Put a piece of paper in there with notes on it-crop, cultivar, date harvested, abuse the mother plant received. These go in dollar store plastic shoe boxes, then onto a shelf.

I've used canning jars. Picked up a couple hundred of them at a church flea market for 10¢ each, another couple hundred on craiglslist for 3 bucks/dozen. They take up more space than the ziplock bags. I've gotten bugs in the bags, never had a bug in the jars unless they came out of the seed.
 
Nila Jones
Posts: 6
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA
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I keep most of my seeds in the fridge. They are in miscellaneous paper packets (I just started using glassine) and are grouped by category in ziploc bags. I used to use plastic tubs, with tidy little labelled dividers I made out of cardstock, but I decided they take up too much space. There may be more seeds than food in there, and the bags are compressible before zipping . After 10-15 years, germination is less, but it's no problem at all after 5 years.

Seeds that I have larger quantities of, like brassicas and favas, I just keep on top of the bookcases in the living room. If I have saved a lot of seed, I don't care about germination rate . I did find bugs in one paper bag this year (10-15 years old), so I will be more consistent about putting them in containers now.

I also don't clean my seeds, necessarily. For some varieties (brassicas, again, are an example) it just doesn't seem worth the trouble. I save whole stalks/pods, and crumble them into the bed. Or, if only starting a few in trays, I separate out the seeds at time of planting. A side benefit is that the chaff makes it easy to see where I have planted.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
13
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Best is to have perennials, no worrying with seeds.

Second, some vegetables will self-seed but they might also cross with wild relatives and produce less nice offspring, but other times offspring will be just as good and spread in the garden. This can happen with radish for example, and several flowers. No need to worry with seed in those cases.

Third, some common seeds lose viability rapidly: onions especially, parsnips and scorzonera, some basils: even after 1 year you might find your entire package does not germinate at all.

But in general tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, squash keep good and in some of my cases they have even last 6 years. They might lose viability a bit, but still germinate. Sometimes one variety out of several fails to germinate after 5 or 6 years. I kept these seeds just in a drawer inside the original package, inside a plastic bag, without thinking too much. Sometimes I forget them in a room with sunlight, I know that is not good. Humidity is also bad.

Long stored seeds might take longer to germinate.

Beans: these you should save in a glass container because otherwise some insects will like to eat those over time!
Carrots: they have lasted 4 years well. I have had one package of lettuce losing viability after some years.

If you have a rare variety the best is to grow it, save seed (taking care of not crossing with other varieties - this happens easily with brassicas for example) and then save a lot of seed for yourself, give some to friends, and keep growing that variety.
 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1737
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I've been storing seeds in zipper bags and jars in a cool closet. I cycle through things pretty fast so nothing lasts more than two years before I plant it. I've started saving seeds from my best producers and I way over-plant everything so that I don't really worry too much about germination rates. I always end up with more than I need. I've had pretty good luck with over wintering squashes and pumpkins so I usually just crack a few of them open in the spring and prep seed just before planting.

Also, I've had pretty good luck with storing plants IN my compost pile over winter. It's obviously mostly finished (cool) compost that will be used the following spring. It stays just above freezing in the center though the winter. I take out kale, collards, chives and some other plants, root and all and just throw them (gently) into the middle of the pile before the really cold weather hits. Surprisingly, many of them make it through to spring. When I use the compost in the spring garden prep, I just take the plants and put them in an empty spot in the garden. This year the collards went right to seed but due to the huge root mass from last years growth, they produced a bucket of seed. I'll be planting that seed next year or maybe later this summer for a small fall harvest.
I wonder.. what other plants this might work for?
 
Bryzantium Langford
Posts: 21
Location: The Great State of Louisana
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I'm in northwest Louisiana. Tho i've never stored seeds wit the intention of 5-10 year storage. The way I store seeds is in 2 quart coke bottles. I dry them well and tho in a quarter cup of rice to absorb the humidity and then store in a dark inner room of my house. Will that last 10 years? Probably not and if so id guess the germination rate to be very low. I'm sorry to say but without power the chances of 10 year storage for most seeds is nil.
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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my wife has started storing seeds this year by placing the seeds into paper packages that she places into half gallon canning jars, then pulls a vacume on the jars. We are curious to see how this works. we have bought hierloom seeds that were vacume packed in the past.
kent
 
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