We all grow in knowledge as we go along in any pursuit or endeavor, but when we start out I think we need to keep everything as simple as possible. This applies to seed savings and seed storage.
As complicated as it can be made — seed saving and storage is pretty simple. Think about this way: – gardeners and farmers have saved seed from one year to the next to grow their crops and feed their families for millennia. They didn’t have silica gel packets, plastic bags, electric freezers or refrigerators or the internet to help make it complicated.
We – as a society and nation — have gotten so far away from our “food” that it seems perfectly normal for us to buy seed from seed companies rather than to save our own. And I for one – would probably have habitually continued to buy all my seed had I not found out about Monsanto’s desire to control the world’s seed — and thus, the food supply.
Well – now that I’m “awake” – I realize that it’s foolishness to buy seed for next year if you’e growing the crop and can save the seed. (Fortunately for all of us — there are some great small and/or independent seed companies still around to back us up while we’re learning or if we’re not 100% successful in our efforts.)
How I Store my Seed
As with most things – there’s more than one way to be successful — but I’m going to give you “Theresa’s-easy-way” first and you can always make it more complicated if you so desire.
For almost 35 years I’ve been storing leftover seed in their original envelopes folded over and sometimes with a piece of tape to hold it closed. I then place the seed packages in a box and close it. Those boxes go out on my enclosed porch. Temperatures fluctuate between 60 and 70 depending on what time of the year it is. In summer it’s air-conditioned so has low humidity. (Where we lived prior to 15 years ago — we had no air-conditioning.)
I’ve kept seeds of vegetables that are “suppose to” be viable only 3 years — for 5 to 10 years and had them germinate. I planted some very old Masai green beans year before last in several out of the way places in the garden — thinking they wouldn’t germinate — but they all did.
When I save my own seed I put it in small paper bags or small envelopes. I do not keep seed in sealed plastic bags because I’m concerned about possible moisture. (I know people who store in plastic and have success. I don’t and won’t.) I will however store the paper bags that are filled with seed in an open plastic bag for convenience.
Freezer or Refrigerator?
A lot of folks I know — and know of — keep their seed in the freezer or refrigerator. They tell me they have good results, so I guess it works for them. I prefer not to even try it.
Some plants have to cold stratify (go through a period of cold temperature or freezing temperatures) in order to germinate. Unless I winter sow — I’ll put them in the freezer for a few weeks to serve as their needed period of cold. Some examples are anise hyssop, old english lavender, datura (moon flower) and tansy. I also find this helpful with snapdragons.
Freezing for these plants help break their hard outer shell. That’s what they need before they can germinate.
What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander and freezing can damage some seed. If the moisture level in the seed was high enough to expand when frozen it will cause damage to cells of the seed. If freezing cracks the shell of seed not meant to crack — the seed won’t be good. An example would be seed of tomatoes, greens, peppers, eggplants.
I’ve read in various places that if the moisture level is 5 to 7% – the seed can be kept in the freezer indefinitely. Since I wouldn’t have any idea as to how I would go about determining that, I’ll stick to the way I’m doing it and keep it simple.
Basics to Remember
- Save your own seed fresh each year.
- Dry it on a fine screen or sheet of plastic or glass.
- Dry the seeds in a warm place out of direct sunlight for about two weeks.
- Moisture and storage temperatures are the most important factors in keeping seed. Key words for success are a cool, dry environment. Try to keep temperature levels even. Aim for a cool constant temperature.
If you decide to store your seed in air-tight jars and want to use a desicant to remove moisture — place your seed in their bags first. Place a desicant in the jar but outside of the bag containing your seed. You can use silica gels packets. Or placing one-half inch thickness of rice, charcoal, or powdered milk in the bottom of the jar will work as well.
Silica gels suitable for drying seeds can be purchased from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Silica gel is also available at most craft stores.
You learn by doing. So jump in and start saving your seed. Keep the basics in mind and I think you’ll be successful way beyond your expectations — not to mention more self-reliant and independent.
Organic Gardening it easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot easier.
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