Some of the most common gardening questions I get here at The Homesteading Housewife pertain to long term seed storage. People want to know what they can store, where they should store, and how to store seeds long term. I will do my best to answer all these questions in this article, but feel free to leave a comment with any questions that remain.
Storing seeds is very important when living on a homestead. One of the keys to a successful homestead is keeping costs minimal since outside income is generally low. If you have to purchase a few hundred dollars a year in seeds to grow your produce, that could make a huge difference in your life.
In order to save that money, you will want to store your seeds every year so that you can plant more next year at no cost. If you are looking to make a little more money on your homestead, you can even sell your leftover seeds to new homesteaders who are always looking for cheap organic seeds.
When new homesteaders ask me what homesteading skills they should learn before getting started, long term seed storage is towards the top of my list. It is extremely simple and saves you a ton of money.
The key to long term seed storage is the word “moisture”. The drier you can keep the seeds, the more success you will have.
A dormant seed, one that is waiting to grow, is essentially a dehydrated seed. It contains approximately 10% water and is idle while waiting to become active. At a certain moisture level (varies by species), the embryo starts to swell and grow. When the embryo grows, the shell will start to crack and the plant will emerge.
While air, temperature, and light all matter when trying to germinate seeds, the seeds won’t reach the point where those matter without moisture. Therefore, locking them in a dry area is really how to store seeds long term.
Store your seeds in an air tight container, like a zip-lock bag or air-tight jar If you have one. Whatever you use, you want to make sure that no air can get in or out. Any air that gets in will bring moisture along with it!
Inside the container, I suggest that you add a few packets of silica gel. Silica gel will absorb any moisture locked inside the container, increasing your chance of success. If you can’t get your hands on silica gel, powdered milk is said to work really well too.
When you fill the container for long term seed storage make sure that you label what you are filling it with. I have pulled a jar of seeds out of the freezer without having any idea what I was saving many times. Learn from my mistakes and spend the extra 30 seconds to save yourself the headache later.
I know lots of you are going to scour when I say this, but the freezer is the best place for long term seed storage. The extreme cold will freeze the water before it can increase the moisture within the seeds.
The key to this method is to let the seeds warm up to room temperature before you remove them from the air tight container. If you let them thaw outside of the container, they will quickly soak up the moisture and will have a significant decrease in their chance of survival.
No matter what precautions your take, you are going to have less success planting stored seeds than fresh. It’s impossible to avoid it, so you have to account for it. The point of taking precautions is to limit the amount you lose as much as possible, but it is impossible to eliminate it.
When you are ready to plant the seeds you have been storing long term, you are going to want to test them first. You want to find out what percentage is actually going to sprout so you can plant extra in the field. As an example, if only 50% of the seeds are no viable, you will need to add another 50% to the amount that you are spreading.
The easiest way to conduct germination testing is to “plant” the seeds in a moist paper towel until the sprout. Wrap the seeds in the moist paper towel and store them in an open bag so air can flow. Store them in a warm location and check them daily to get a count of how many have sprouted.
I want to know how you store your seeds long term. Let me know in the comments below and make sure that you check out some of my other articles. I will teach you everything that you need to know about getting started with homesteading today!