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27.11.10

How to Store Seeds You Saved From Your Garden

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.

how to store seeds you saved from your garden


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. 
seed storing envelopes

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.

coin envelopes for seed saving

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

saving seeds in jars

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

containers for saving 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.

Desiccants

Rice packet controls humidity in seed bank

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.

14 comments:

  1. Oh, snap! I didn't realize how tiny those Altoids tins are. I wasn't envious before, but now I am, thankyouverymuch. And my eyes are literally watering from laughing so hard at (I mean WITH) "Carefully opening your purchased seed packets..." that is something I *mean* to do every year and rarely succeed. Even though cutting the tiniest fraction of the top off is way better than ripping it open with gloved hands, the packets themselves get dirty and wrinkled by the time I'm done sowing. And, yeah, rule breaker that I am, I've never used desiccants, though I love the little baggie o' rice.

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  2. P.S. Does this mean you might host another seed swap at the Chi F&G Show? Cuz I want to go to there. And being the lameass slacker I am with blogging now, I prolly won't host my own swap next year, either. No pressure! ;-)

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  3. @Monica,

    1) When the Email notification of your comment came through I realized that I hadn't meant for this post to publish yet. It is/was still in the editing phase and your laughing worried me 'cause I thought I had a huge mistake. Anyway, I never used to carefully open seed packs before until I realized that I didn't ever have use for the fancy X-ACTO knives I bought. So, in order to not feel like a loser who wasted money on them I started using them to carefully open seed packs. Now my seed packs are nice and tidy and reusable.

    2) I never used dessicants until I became more interested in creating "seed banks" and even then I really only do this for my "special" seeds that either cost a lot of money or have sentimental value. I have seeds that have been laying about in my bedroom for years before sowing.

    3) I'm thinking about doing another seed swap, not sure if it will be at CF&GS but I'm hoping I get motivated to do something in terms of a seed swap.

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  4. Aw, you know I would never make fun of you on your own blog! (Puhleeze, I do it behind your back! HA!!!)

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  5. These are all great ideas! I love the coin envelope idea!

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  6. My dogs treats always has a silica pack inside...I will start to save these! Thanks for the idea!

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  7. Now I am asking myself, why didn't I keep those silica gel packets. I didn't know that they can be recycled. And hey, thanks for your tips on rice as alternative :-D

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  8. This first photo is killing me (in a good way)! Dried petals, worn wood, and manila paper might just be the keys to life -- as are the seeds that prompted this post....

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  9. Great advice! I never thought of using rice that way. I wish I were half as tidy as you. ;>)

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  10. I use coin envelopes but didn't ever think about humidity (um, and I'm in a rainforest) - love the rice idea.

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  11. Love your site! In one of your post you refer to "garden nerds"--that's me! I'm a Master Gardener and recently a "backyard chicken farmer." I'm a contributing blogger about my new chicken raising experience on communitychickens.com and I recently created my own gardening blog called
    ...the garden-roof coop

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  12. Lots of great creative and frugal tips here MBT - thanks! I can't believe I didn't used to save seeds, but I sure do now.

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  13. @Monica, You're crazy.

    @meemsnyc, Glad you like them.

    @Julie, Using the silica packs is better than tossing them in the trash.

    @Stephanie, You're welcomed. Do keep those packets they usually work for a long period of time. Also, evaporated milk is suppose to work the same as the rice.

    @Phyte club katie, Thanks, glad you liked it. I do too. After I took the other pics indoors I wished I would've taken the whole series outdoors for the same effect the first one has.

    @Carol, LOL. Don't be fooled. I'm only this tidy when blogging about something. You should see my desk. It is a mess.

    @Stevie, paper works best especially if you're in a very humid area.

    @Rebecca Nickols, Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your blogging projects. I check out your blog, nice stuff.

    @Garden Girl, I'm glad you're saving seeds. I think we should all experience the same sense of satisfaction of saving your own seeds.

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  14. Anonymous7:57 PM

    Just wanted to say bless your heart for this info! I'm a first year gardener, just going off research and what my sister tells me.. lol
    I saw the nasturtium seeds on my plants and thought "No way are those huge things the seeds! Are they?!". Thanks to your pictures, I found out they are! Cool!
    By the way, all of mine are in clusters of three. Is this a variety thing, or the growing conditions? I read that you saw that rarely.
    Anyway, thanks so much!!
    Hellann

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Hi!

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