Seed Storage at Home

It’s 10:00 PM. Do you know where your children are? Some of you may be too young to remember this public service announcement from evening television programing during the 60s and 70s. For some reason, I was reminded of it when I sat down to write a blog post about seed storage. Does your seed storage system help you fulfill your goals for your seed? Does it manifest intention more than neglect? When spring time comes, do you know where your seeds are?

Seeds of most vegetable varieties that we plant in our gardens are fairly resilient. We gardeners sometimes take advantage of this. Do the seeds you have stored at home all rest comfortably in airtight containers, arranged tidily on shelves in an environment where temperature and humidity are tightly controlled? Mine do not.

Seed Storage at Seed Savers Exchange
Part of my job at Heritage Farm is to facilitate a highly organized system of seed storage in rooms and chambers with precisely controlled temperature and humidity climates. This may seem like something of a paradox or inconsistency. Why is one way appropriate for home and the other for work? I mean, seeds are seeds, right?

Seed storage at home

My “system” of seed storage at home may not look very elegant. Except for the wire rack on which the box sits, it does not in any way resemble the Preservation Collection seed storage areas at Heritage Farm. There’s one box, and it’s stuffed pretty full with seeds in paper envelopes and sandwich bags. While it may not be pretty, the home system is functional because of its location in the consistently cool and dry environment of my basement.

Heat-sealed foil packets for long-term seed storage at Seed Savers Exchange.The Heritage Farm long-term storage systems and protocols are necessary for the work of Seed Savers Exchange: to preserve and distribute the seeds of thousands of heritage garden plant varieties. In order to best preserve a given variety, we prefer to grow it as infrequently as possible. The longer the seed can remain viable in the freezer (and I’m talking decades longer here), the less often the variety is exposed to the environmental and other pressures which accompany a grow-out. These pressures may cause subtle changes to its identity. The dry and very cold conditions in our freezer vaults and chambers help ensure that the seed samples we distribute through the Yearbook and Online Exchange will have a high germination rate, even if the lot from which the sample is taken is years or even decades old.

In preparation for a presentation I’ll be giving at the Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout this summer, I’d like to gather some images and descriptions of your seed storage systems. I hope to see a variety of systems in your responses, because I expect that we all have different goals and reasons for storing seed. Send me an image with a few sentences of description, or even just a description. How do you store your seeds? Let us know!Maybe tell me how your system works well for you, in what ways it might work better, and whether or not you have any plans for its expansion or improvement. Be honest – no tidying up before you take the photo! Address the email to preservation@seedsavers.org and write “my seed storage” in the subject line.

 

For some helpful tips on home seed storage, view this past webinar or check out this blog post.

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Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

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Comments

  1. RUSSELL SCOTT says:

    I PUT CLEANED SEEDS IN PAPER MAILING ENVELOPES AND PLACE THEM IN A GALLON ZIPLOCK BAG. THEN PLACE ANOTHER PAPER ENVELOPE FULL OF EVAPORATED MILK IN THE BAG TO ACT AS A DESSICANT. SEAL THE BAG AND PLACE IN THE FRIG. I HAVE USED SEEDS THAT WERE 10 YEARS OLD THAT HAD BEEN STORED THIS WAY. THE DRAWBACK, THE FRIG CAN GET PRETTY FULL OF SEEDS.

  2. Nancy Kosling says:

    My method of seed storage depends on the seeds. Basil goes into the metal bucket I harvest the seeds with until early spring where I separate the stalks from the seeds to plant or put into envelopes to give to fellow gardeners. Name and date of harvest.. Beets were well dry for harvest so after rubbing the seed clusters to separate the seeds, I put them into gift-able envelopes with name, date of harvest. Radish still has green pods so when I finally pull up the whole plants it will trigger the pods to dry. When the pods are brittle-dry I will count them, 100 seeds to paper envelope, name and date of packaging for gifting.

  3. I live in a moble home in hot humid east Tennesse after putting the clen and dry sorted labeledseeds in packages my husband store them in old thrift shop igloo plastici coolers. He placed our queen sized home made bed frame on top of the coolers indoors in air conditioning. This helps keep them somewhat cool and dry. The best we can do living on a fixed budget.

  4. Christel says:

    I put them in small jewelry bags after drying them, the bags are air tight and labelled with the name of the plant. It has worked so far.

  5. Susan Hall says:

    I keep my seeds in their original seed packs inside a Ziploc freezer bag labeled with the year. Or if they are seeds that I have saved, they may be in empty vitamin bottles, small seed saver Ziplocs, and some in paper envelopes; all stored in gallon-size Ziploc freezer bags. I write the name of the seed on the storage container and then the year on the large freezer bag. I then store the large freezer bags inside large shopping bags depending on the type of seeds; such as grains, flowers, vegetables, etc. I put all of this inside the chest-style freezer on the back porch. The problem that I run into, is that I end up buying some seeds when I really don’t need them. Especially when the seed catalogs are so enticing! I started keeping inventory a couple of years ago, and that has helped some. A couple of other problems are: Waiting for the seeds to come to room temperature before I open the freezer bags, takes a little while. The freezer bags also will get small holes in them and have to be replaced every couple of years.

  6. Robert Yoho says:

    I use a large 3 ring binder filled with clear vinyl pouch pages usually used for collector/sport cards. I had to get the pages made for larger cards (4 to a page) in order to fit standard seed packets. Unfortunately, Seed Saver packets (and Baker Creek, btw) are slightly larger than standard store-bought seed envelopes, so I have to fold over the side for them to fit. I can arrange seeds by type, season, plant dates, whatever. And since the pages are clear, I can easily see the fronts and read the backs without removing them. I find this is much easier and neater than my old ‘stuff em in a box’ method.
    Bob

  7. Christine Williams says:

    I put the seeds in paper envelopes, then those go into the reused tin containers that popcorn, cookies, or candy come in during the holidays. These containers seal very well. These containers go into the freezer, which is quite dry. This year I grew most of my garden from seeds that are at least three years old, some MUCH older, and had nearly 100% germination rates, even from carrots and other delicate seed types. The tin containers are readily available if you let your friends and neighbors know you want them.

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