Once you've learned how to save seeds from your garden for next year the next step is storing the seeds after you have made sure they are properly dried. Seed storage of your ornamental and edible plants is easy and once you’ve tried a few methods you’ll find one that works best for you and you’ll also discover that some rules can be bent if not broken altogether.Storing saved seeds gives you an opportunity to recycle those jars and containers you clean out and put aside in case you need them one day. I’ll provide some ideas and guidelines for how I store seeds saved from my garden, but you should feel free to experiment with your own stash of saved seeds.
Seed Saving Envelopes
Carefully opening your purchased seed packets in the spring will afford you the opportunity to recycle those packets and store your fall harvest of seed in them. Benefits of storing seeds in the packet they came from include creating less waste, having a picture of the plants, seed starting and plant information already comes printed.
Paper coin envelopes also make good envelopes for storing seeds. The tabs are glued allowing you to seal the envelop to make sure your seeds don’t spill out. It is easy to write the name of the plant, variety and other information you’ll need to remember later.
Plastic baggies can be found in craft stores and purchased in bulk for a couple of dollars. Use a permanent marker to print directly on the bag or use mailing labels to write the name, variety and year the seed was collected. Plastic sandwich bags are ideal for large quantities of seeds saved from the garden.
Folding your own seed envelopes from newsprint and magazines can give you a project to keep you occupied over the winter or a kids gardening activity. There are also several seed pack templates on the internet that you can download and print.
Saving Seeds in Jars and Containers
Glass jars are my favorite container for storing seeds after they have been dried. In particular I like jars with a rubber seal as this will keep air out of the jar. At a glance one can see the quantity and variety of seeds stored inside. You could also affix a label to the jar and write down the number and variety of seed packs inside to help you keep track of the inventory.
Other Containers for Storing Seeds
Plastic shoe boxes, candy and coffee tins and wooden cigar boxed are also good places you can keep seed packs and envelopes in, especially after your collection of saved seed expands. Small containers like the one’s pictured above are good for small to medium-sized seed varieties in small quanties. Pill bottles, film roll canisters, breath mint tins for pocket seed banks and the small tubs cake frosting comes in are things I’ve used in the past.
Seeds are usually desiccated to moisture levels between 4-8%. To achieve this, silica gel similar to the packets you’ll find in your clothes and shoes is used. Save and use the silica gel packets that come with your shoes and clothes to regulate the humidity levels inside of the larger container (jars, tubs and tins) you use to store your seed packs and envelopes in. If you don’t have any on hand you can use rice. Place a decent amount of rice inside of a paper napkin as shown in the picture above. A square shaped rice pack may be better as there is more surface area that would allow air to move through and the rice to absorb humidity in the air. There is some debate about whether desiccating seeds to low levels is ultimately detrimental to seed viability. Orthodox seeds may not be negatively impacted but recalcitrant seeds could be. While the debate on drying seeds focus is primarily within scientific circles, it is something we home gardeners creating seed banks should take into consideration.
Storing Your Seeds
After your seeds have been packaged, labeled with name and variety of the seed and date collected; the larger containers holding the packs and your desiccant can be place in a cool dry place. This can be a pantry, basement or your refrigerator. Aside from seeds getting wet the biggest danger to your seeds is them freezing. Make sure to label any containers in the fridge to prevent family from taking them out or disposing of them.
While storing the seeds from your garden in individual envelops and small containers may seem like a lot of work, keeping your seed collection organized will save you time and money in the long run. If your seeds are all kept in one place they’re easily accessible for seed swaps and in the spring when you’re starting seeds. Create your own personal seed bank so there’s no need to purchase seed staples in the spring because you can’t find them. Store heirloom seeds to guard against the possibility of your favorite seed seller dropping the seed from their inventory.
When you save and store seeds from your garden you’re selecting seeds that do best in your garden and in your climate. Seeds have a limited shelf-life but you can extend the life of your seeds by keeping them cool and regulating the humidity that can create mold or result in your seeds germinating while in storage. Periodically check the germination rate of your collection of seeds. Grow out those with low germination rates. What seeds can you store in your own seed bank? Seeds from annual, perennial and biannual plants along with your herbs and vegetables. Seeds from fruiting trees, shrubs, houseplants and tropical plants may not store well if at all because they fall into the category of recalcitrant seeds.
See part 1: How to Save Seeds From Your Garden . You can find my blog posts on seed saving by using the search box or navigating the labels.