How to Store Seeds for Long Term Use
As you expand your survival garden and become a more experienced gardener, your crop quality will improve, and you will likely want to start saving seeds and storing them for long-term use.
Saving seeds will allow you to preserve qualities from your plants that are beneficial to you and your family, such as high-quality fruit, high yield, and disease resistance.
Successfully storing your seeds for later use requires a little bit of background knowledge on plants, and some careful pre-planning. But once you get the hang of it, it’s a great way to increase your self-sufficiency!
Tip: Start with vegetable seeds such as beans, lettuce, peas, and tomatoes.
Hybrid vs. Open-Pollinated Seeds
Before you begin the process of saving seeds to store for future use, it’s important to make sure you understand the difference between hybrid and open-pollinated seeds.
Hybrid seeds come from plants that are the result of the crossing of two different varieties, which combines the characteristics of both parent plants. These plants are often superior in terms of disease resistance, high productivity, and vigor. However, these plants are not great options for seed saving because their seeds will not share those superior characteristics. Instead, they will feature a combination of traits from the original parent plants, including the bad ones.
If you are serious about saving and storing seeds for long-term use, it is important to work with seeds from open-pollinated plants. Open-pollinated simply means that the plants are fertilized by bees, moths, birds, bats, the wind, or rain, or that they are self-pollinators. The seeds that grow from open-pollinated plants produce the same or very similar plant year after year as long as they continue to self-pollinate or cross-pollinate with the same variety. Most open-pollinated plants are heirlooms that have been passed down through generations.
Harvesting Your Seeds for Storage
The first step in successfully storing seeds for long term use is to harvest them correctly; and how you do that depends upon the type of seed you are dealing with.
Wet seeds Plants that yield wet seeds include cucumber, eggplant, melon, pumpkin, squash, and tomato. Their seeds need to be harvested when the plant’s fruit is ripe. Simply pick the fruit from the plant and then remove the pulp or other coatings that surround the seeds. The easiest way to do this is usually to scoop the seeds out of the ripened fruit, place them in a glass jar, add water, and then stir the mixture a couple of times per day. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar. Pour out the jar, rinse off the seeds, and then set them out to dry on plates or baking sheets.
Dry seeds Seeds from pea and bean plants should be harvested once pods have turned brown and seeds are dry and rattle around inside. Simply remove the pods from the plants and spread them out in a dry space, without direct sunlight. Let sit for a couple of weeks. Then, shell the pods to remove the seeds. Most flower and herb seeds should also be collected once the flowers have turned brown.
Remember to research the exact species you are working with before you begin the seed harvesting and storage process.
Storing Your Seeds for Long Term Use
Once you’ve collected your seeds, it’s finally time to store them for future use. The most important thing to remember is that you must keep your seeds cool and dry so that they will retain viability. We recommend following these steps:
- Sort each variety of seed into paper packets.
- Place the paper packets into tightly sealed glass containers.
- Add a desiccant to the containers to absorb humidity. Silica gel or powdered milk wrapped in tissue or cheese cloth will work well for absorbing moisture and keeping the seeds dry.
- Label seeds. At minimum, include the variety and date you collected them.
Store the containers in your refrigerator (at a temperature of 32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit).
For more gardening tips, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.