Gardening can be tons of fun. But why waste money purchasing new seeds when you can be self-sufficient? Harvest your best crops and don't let anything go to waste. Store the seeds for a great yield year after year.
From start to finish, learn the proper techniques for seed storage. It's a process that only takes a few minutes here and there, and may not cost you anything at all. Save money and time with these helpful tips.
First thing's first: before you store your seeds, you have to make your seeds. Though it's hit or miss, you can throw caution to the wind and randomly scatter whatever you want. However, it's best to establish a seed garden to ensure organization and optimal output.
A seed garden consists of the same growth planted together, with each variety set apart from one another. This causes less risk of cross-pollination, which offers improved seed viability.
When it's time to harvest your seeds, take them from the healthiest and most productive plants. Sometimes they may need cleaning off before you go any further. For instance, poppy seeds need to be removed from their pods, and cucumber seeds have a gel around them that should be rinsed off entirely.
Once your seeds are cleaned and prepped, it's time for the drying process. You can simply spread them on a paper towel or newspaper for a week or two, depending on their size: the larger the seed, the longer it needs.
Alternate methods to speed up drying time include screening in the seeds and blowing a fan over them, or carefully using a food dehydrator. However, first-timers should probably stick to air-drying.
There's a good chance you already own some great storage container options. If not, you'll only need to spend a few bucks to ensure you have a safe and airtight home for your seeds.
Envelopes, pill organizers, jars, tackle boxes, recycled water bottles, and food storage containers or bags are all easy ideas. The key to getting the most out of your seeds is to eliminate air, though. Make sure to use items that will fit your seeds without leaving a lot of empty space. Doubling up on storage can't hurt, either. Placing a small paper bag of seeds into a mason jar, for example, adds another protective safeguard.
Though you've done everything possible to remove the excess air from your containers, sometimes things don't go as planned. As a precautionary measure, it's prudent to add a moisture-absorbing product to your containers. Repurposed silica gel packets are a wonderful option. Rice works well too, and so does powdered milk wrapped in a tissue.
Don't forget to label and date every container of seeds you batch: the more information the better. Organizing them is critical, too. If you've made packets from envelopes, filing them in a catalog is a great idea; make one easily from a repurposed shoe or recipe box. Even old photo albums work well, so be creative. Jars can go into stacked plastic bins or milk crates for a minimal footprint.
Not all seeds have the same staying power. Yes, sometimes you can get a seed to germinate ten years or more down the road, but you shouldn't count on this haphazard method. Know the general lifespans of your varieties and make sure you use them within that timeframe so you can gain the most crop for your effort.
Typically, seeds are divided into three categories:
As a rule of thumb, the more oil in a seed, the faster it will degrade.
It's a good idea to store your seeds in an area that's a bit cooler than room temperature. As moisture and light are the biggest enemies, make sure your seeds are in a dry and dark space, such as a cabinet, basement, or garage. Don't forget that seeds can attract pests, so check them over every so often. Using clear storage containers will give you instant visual clues if something is amiss, but this isn't a requirement.
Another option is cold storage. This works well if you want to increase the life expectancy of your seeds, especially the short-lived variety. Freezers keep a relatively constant temperature — which you need — as long as you aren't opening them before every meal. Refrigerators can work, too, though not as well. For ideal results, use glass storage containers.
From start to finish, you've put in a lot of hard work. When it's getting close to planting time, don't skimp on your follow-through. Take your seeds out from storage and set them out for several hours till they get to room temperature. Then open the containers to expose the seeds to air for a few days before planting.
While you're waiting for them to acclimate, it's nice to get an estimate for your potential yield. Take ten seeds from a given batch and neatly place them in a moist paper towel. Put the paper towel into a plastic bag and set it in a warm area. Wait the designated germination time, then open the bag to see how many have sprouted.