storing seeds long term

6 Tips for Storing Seeds Saved From Your Own Garden

A little powdered milk can help you grow your favorite plants again and again.

You’ve harvested your summer seeds and now it’s time to store them to help you get a jump-start on next season — but storing them improperly could make your dreams of a bountiful garden fall flat. Follow our easy guide to storing your saved seeds that will save you time and money and give you your best harvest yet.

1. Dry the seeds.

If you’re gathering and saving seeds from your own plants, spread the seeds on newspaper and let them air-dry for about a week. Write seed names on the newspaper so there’s no mix-up. Pack the air-dried seeds in small paper packets or envelopes and label with the plant name and other pertinent information. Remember, if you want to save your own seeds, you’ll need to plant open-pollinated varieties. They’ll come back true; hybrids won’t.

You can also dry saved seeds on paper towels. They’ll stick to the towels when dry, so roll them up right in the towel to store them. When you’re ready to plant, just tear off bits of the towel, one seed at a time, and plant seed and towel right in the soil.

2. Stash them somewhere airtight.

Put the packets inside plastic food storage bags, Mason jars with tight-fitting lids, or glass canisters with gasketed lids.

To keep seeds dry, wrap two heaping tablespoons of powdered milk in four layers of facial tissue, then put the milk packet inside the storage container with the seed packets. You can also add a packet of silica gel in with the seeds. Replace every six months.

3. Put the containers in a dry and cool place.

Humidity and warmth shorten a seed’s shelf life, so the refrigerator is generally the best place to store seeds, but keep them far away from the freezer.

4. Toss any seeds pass their prime.

Store each year’s seeds together and date them. Because most seeds remain viable about three years, you’ll know at a glance which container still has planting potential.

5. Prepare for planting.

When you’re ready to plant, remove the containers from the refrigerator and keep them closed until the seeds warm to room temperature. Otherwise, moisture in the air will condense on the seeds, causing them to clump together.

6. Expect a few duds.

Even if you’re organized, methodical, and careful about storing seeds, accept the fact that some seeds just won’t germinate the following year. Home gardeners will find that stored sweet corn and parsnip seeds in particular have low germination rates, and other seeds will only remain viable for a year or two.

Saving seeds for next year? You’ll need to store them properly to ensure good germination.

Storing Seeds – How To Store Seeds

Collecting and storing seed is economical and an excellent way to continue the propagation of a hard-to-find plant. Seed storage requires cool temperatures, low humidity, and dim to no light. How long do seeds last? Every seed is different so the exact length of time for storing seeds will vary, however, if done properly most will last at least a season. Get the scoop on how to keep seeds to ensure you have a good supply of high quality seed every season.

Harvesting Seeds for Seed Storage

Seed pods or dried flower heads can be harvested by drying in an open paper bag. When the seeds have dried sufficiently, shake the bag and the seed will spill out of the pod or off the head. Remove the non-seed material and store. Scoop the vegetable seeds out of the vegetable and rinse to remove the pulp or meat. Place the seeds on a paper towel until they are dry.

How to Store Seeds

Successful seed storage starts with good seed; it isn’t worth your time to store seed that isn’t viable or is of poor quality. Always purchase your primary plants or seed from a reputable nursery or supplier. Don’t save seed from plants that were hybrids as they are inferior to the parents and may not come true from seed.

Learning how to store seeds helps make you a sustainable gardener. The first tip is in harvesting. Select healthy mature fruit and vegetables from which to collect seed. Collect seed pods when they are mature and dry but just before they open. Dry your seeds completely before packaging them. The drier seeds are, the longer they will store. Storing seeds that are less than 8 percent moisture provides the optimum long term seed storage. You can dry seeds or seed pods in the oven on a cookie sheet as long as the temperature is less than 100 F. (38 C.).

Keep seeds in a closed container such as a sealed mason jar. Place a cheesecloth bag of dry powdered milk at the bottom of the jar and put the jar in the refrigerator or freezer for long term seed storage. Label the contents clearly and date it as well. For seeds that will be stored for only a season, place the container in a cool, dark location.

Seed Storage Viability

Properly stored seed will last up to a year. Some seeds can last for three to four years, such as:

  • asparagus
  • beans
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • celery
  • leeks
  • peas
  • spinach

Long-lived seeds include:

  • beets
  • chard
  • the cabbage group
  • cucumber
  • radish
  • eggplant
  • lettuce
  • tomato

The seeds to use the quickest are:

  • corn
  • onion
  • parsley
  • parsnip
  • pepper

It’s always best to use seed as quickly as possible for fastest germination and growth.

Collecting and storing seed is economical and an excellent way to continue the propagation of a hard to find plant. Seed storage requires cool temperatures, low humidity and dim to no light. Learn more here.