There were many families a long time ago (and perhaps still today) that plant the same variety of a vegetable every year. Not an ordered seed but seed they saved from the year before. And the year before that, and the year before that.
You’ll sometimes see in a seed catalog a variety that was saved because a family preserved the seed over generations. These are true heirloom seeds. You’ll sometimes find a few of these available every year. Those folks saved the seed and saved the variety which is often time not found elsewhere. This seems to be particularly true in bean seeds.
Just like the home grower of yesteryear, storing seeds is practical as well as economical. A home organic garden is the best place to collect and store your own seeds from your food garden rather than purchasing seeds with unknown sources from the store/catalog/market every planting season.
Not everyone knows how to store seeds properly. Conditions such as relative humidity, storage temperature, and light are three important factors to consider when storing seed. Seeds should be carefully dried and stored under proper conditions to maintain their viability. So how do you store seeds for long-term storage?
Preparing the seed for storage is paramount in having viable seeds for the future. Your method of preparation and seed selection can affect the germination and productive capability of seeds when ultimately planted. Seed maturity is very important to consider as well. The most success in seed saving begins by selecting the good seed. Basically, for storage purpose, seeds are categorized into two types. These are desiccation-tolerant seeds, which are our common garden seeds that mature on their own, are easy to dry, stored, and desiccation-intolerant seeds that do not enter dormancy after maturing. Desiccation-intolerant seeds can’t be stored for long a period of time.
Tips to Remember in Preparing Seeds for Storage
a. Harvest fully ripened seeds from your plant for it can retain viability longer compared to immature seeds.
b. Collect only good quality seeds from your mother plant or from a reputable nursery supplier.
c. Dry seeds properly in air-conditioned room with a low relative humidity of 20 to 40 percent. You can also dry them in open air for two weeks or more depending on the size of seeds.
Keeping your seeds in moisture proof containers is very important thing to remember in storing. Mason jars with fitting lid, plastic food storage bags, and plastic or glass canisters can be used. Save your small glass jars all year for this use.
What to do?
a. Humidity and warmth affects shelf life. Store your seedsin dry and cool place.
b. Store seeds with desiccant (silica gel) or in containers with oxygen absorber to help prolong viability.
c. Label the storage containers. Place the name and date so you will know which seeds to open first when planting season comes.
d. Fill containers completely to ensure minimum exchange of moisture between the seed and the entrapped air and to limit the amount of oxygen enclosed.
e. When storing fragile and easily damaged seeds the use of rigid-walled container is recommended. Use moisture-proof plastic bags as liners when using rigid containers.
f. Insulate your container or space to avoid fluctuations in the temperature.
g. When you are ready to use your seeds bring the seeds back to room temperature before using.
The best place to keep your seeds at home is the refrigerator or the freezer. Remember to provide constant temperature to help maintain viability Do not take them out very often to avoid damage and moisture due to change in temperature.
Here’s to great gardening and seed saving for successful long term seed storage.