Seed Storage

Alison Posts: 179 ✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Seed Saving & Fall Prep

I believe that it's very beneficial to save seed whenever possible or practicle. It not only saves money, but it also gives an extra level of insurance in relation to 'food security' and diversity.

With the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in mind years ago I began to store all of my seed in the fridge. It can be a bit challenging sometimes as I tend to be a bit of a hoarder when it comes to seeds. I have found however that my seeds tend to be viable well beyond their general expiration dates.

My current fridge has a small drawer area that is about chest height. It's just the right size to store the average seed pack lying on it's side, front of label facing outward. I have put the seeds in alphabetical order and used elastic bands to put each seed type into a bundle. That is, all my bean packs are in a bundle in the 'B' area, pumpkin are banded together etc. It makes looking for a particular type of fruit or veg much easier to find. It also means I have been less likely to purchase seeds unnecessarily as I can easily see if I've got plenty of one type.

So, how do you store your seeds? Have you found one method better than another?

What results have you had on extending the shelf life of your seeds?


  • Melody Castello
    Melody Castello Posts: 13 ✭✭✭

    I usually store mine in a cool dark place, but now have a second fridge so will probably use your system and store there.

  • Gardennan
    Gardennan Posts: 47 ✭✭✭

    Thank you so much for this idea the timing is perfect. The store my husband works at was going to throw all the unsold seeds away so his boss said he could have them to bring home. I have 2 gallon size zippy bags of assorted seed. Now hopefully they will last a while. I never thought to refrigerate them.

  • Obiora E
    Obiora E Posts: 517 ✭✭✭✭

    I have never refrigerated seeds but storing them in the freezer will allow them to last even longer. There are storage facilities for seeds in the Arctic and I believe elsewhere that are storing seeds in the extreme cold to preserve them for a future calamity.

    I recently purchased a stainless bucket with lid to keep my 90+ seed varieties (I used to sell heirloom seeds in bulk through my business). Most of them are still viable some 10+ years later. Before I bought the bucket I just stored them in cloth bags in dark places that are unheated and not cooled.

  • VickiP
    VickiP Posts: 586 ✭✭✭✭

    I have used our storm shelter for seed storage. I do think they last better in the freezer or the fridge. I have wondered about vacuum sealing the packets into a Mylar bag and storing them in the storm shelter.

  • sallyhoward
    sallyhoward Posts: 106 ✭✭✭

    I have been using paper bags stored in a timber drawer (with some moisture absorbents) with mixed results. I might try the vacuum pack and fridge. Thanks for these ideas.

  • pamelamackenzie
    pamelamackenzie Posts: 143 ✭✭✭

    I store in the fridge in the low moisture drawer in a box with either moisture absorbents or instant milk wrapped in coffee filter as sort of self made moisture absorbent

  • merlin44
    merlin44 Posts: 426 ✭✭✭✭

    I vacuum pack mine in plastic bags, store them in a dark corner of a loft. Viability has been good.

  • ines871
    ines871 Posts: 1,283 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Alison "Saving, & Storing SEEDs" is the 2nd. most important Topic of them all. 🙂 Thank you for engaging... about this crucial subject.

  • macycandice
    macycandice Posts: 5 ✭✭✭

    I agree with Rainbow; this is a very important topic, so I'm going to expand upon it for a min. I love all the ideas on where and how to store them, and I will probably try my hand at fridge storage as well, but I'd like to put in here a tidbit about the saving part. There are probably as many ways to "save" seeds as there are seeds themselves. What are your favorites? Here are some of mine: for squash, melons, and most fruiting produce, I like to place the pulp and seeds in a colander and start washing away the ick. I place my cleaned seeds on a dry paper towel to air dry, then store in labeled envelopes in a box. For wet fruits likes tomatoes, i spread the seeds over clean paper towels, then once dry, cut into smaller sections, which are then stored in the same manner. for planting of these ones, i just plant the whole paper towel piece. For seeds gathered from flowers, such as herbs, flowers, leafy greeens, etc, I allow the seeeds to dry on the stem, place a paper bag over the stem, invert (even if I have to cut it at this point) and shake. this allows the seeds to fall into the bag, which can then be divided up or stored as you would like. Just remember to label everything so when you move to the next stage of storage or even planting, you don't have a bunch of mystery seeds.

  • DeeperEating
    DeeperEating Posts: 63 ✭✭✭

    I store mine in several types of storage (paper bags, a small parts storage container, envelops in a binder) in a set of drawers in the most climate stable spot of my basement. The type of storage depends on the seed and the amount of each type I have. I have had great viability, although have only been savings seeds since 2015 so I don't have long term data.

    Temps are largely static with 5-8 degrees variation and there isn't any moisture problems.

    I've been pleased with it so far, but could be interested in doing cold storage.

    I recently saw the documentary "Deeply Rooted" which centered around a farmer and seed saver who is saving field peas in the US South, and he stored all of his seeds in a freezer and it did intrigue me. But I want to be sure that I have stable temperatures in all situations sooo... not sure if I'll make the full switch. Maybe I'll start storing small amounts in the deep freeze!

  • Chris
    Chris Posts: 6 ✭✭✭

    Just purchased half a dozen "Ombyte" metal storage boxes from Ikea to replace an assortment of cookie tins & plastic crates that always got jumbled up. Gives me a chance to properly "audit" my seed stash as I sort the packets & stash the boxes on shelves against a cool but dry North-facing wall.

  • gerald o
    gerald o Posts: 1
    edited September 2019

    Hello yall My wife and I have had a 22 -- 100 ft rows garden for over 35+ years and we always saved lots of our seeds. For cucombers, Bue Wander green snap beans, Rugers tomatoes, Pinkeyedpurple hull peas, Blackeyed peas and Peaches and Cream sweet corn. I would shell product out or pick seeds out and put them on paper to dry for maybe a week. Then put seeds in freezer bag, mashing all air out and zip lock bag, then put all in freezer. When we planted wife would take seeds we were going to plant next morning out of freezer about 8 pm, put all seeds on paper when she openned bags, so they could warm up some and be ready to plant next morning. Yes we did buy some seeds when wife found something else she wanted to plant, so some times we had seed coming out of freezer 2 to 4 years later and they always did very good. My mama showed me how to can when I was 10 to 14 years old and I showed wife how to can. We canned lots of our garden stuff. I have about 1200 quarts canned now going back to 2011. When I cleaned my mama's home I found quart jar of Blackeye peas 27 years old. Took them home to show wife and they were great.

  • cre8tiv369
    cre8tiv369 Posts: 67 ✭✭✭

    I’m all for saving seeds, sharing seeds, seed libraries, gifting seeds, seeded bread, seed sandwich, seed gumbo... (sorry, a little Forrest Gump humor).

    Heres the rub, I don’t want to save my seeds for too long as it interrupts the genetic adaptation I continually groom them for. In these tumultuous times of climate change, I want... nay... I need my plants to adapt as quickly as possible. Each time a plant grows and makes seeds, I save the seeds from the best plants, and those seeds carry genetic adaptations to my local conditions and climate. A 10 year old seed is climatized to the weather and conditions from 10 years ago. I remember 10 years ago, I was raking leaves a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, last year I was raking leaves just before Christmas and into January. There has been a lot of change in the past 10 years (those of you that keep records/journals already know this). Granted I would still plant 10 year old seeds if someone gave them to me, but I wouldn’t expect the vigor of a recently adapted seed.

    It’s a great idea to winterize your seeds in the freezer for a few weeks prior to planting them, makes them think they just slept through winter and spring has sprung. But I would caution anyone against saving seeds for any duration other than for redundancy, (like a back up copy of your current seed stash). Keep those plants growing and adapting to our ever changing environment and save the seeds from your best plants and you increase your odds at having plants in the future (when any plants that have not adapted will struggle). Share your seeds, trade your seeds, gift them to friends, and if possible, you can try to get seeds from someone that grew in a warmer climate as those seeds might already have some of the adaptations for the warming your area is about to experience. I will always prefer locally saved seeds over commercial retail seeds any day of the year, but now days I keep my eyes open for seeds from plants grown in warmer climates as well (sometimes plants take a long time to adapt).

    I’m just throwing that out there as something to keep in the back of your mind when you are considering seeds.

  • DebiB
    DebiB Posts: 92 ✭✭✭

    Lots of good ideas here. What I do personally for seed storage is most of my seeds are kept in paper envelopes (to allow them to breathe) in a dark, cool area of the house. I also have a selection of varieties that I know grow well in my area packed in glass jars in the freezer as my emergency backup. I heard from people at a local seed bank that keeping seed in the freezer is best for long term storage but to make sure to allow the seeds to sit out for about 24 hours before opening them because the extra moisture from the condensation that would be caused by opening up the cold packet of seeds might ruin the seeds that get put back in the freezer.

  • Deborah Dailey
    Deborah Dailey Posts: 8 ✭✭✭

    I have never been very organized, and until recently have saved leftover purchased seeds in their original packets or ones I have collected in envelopes. I put them in a shoebox or whatever container was handy on a shelf in my house, which tends to be cool in the winter. I have had seven or eight year old seeds germinate and grow, and ones only a year old not grow. Some of the packets always seemed to open, spilling out their contents, and I ended up with a lot of mystery seeds that I didn't know their variety or age.

    These past couple of years I have been trying to save seeds from everything I grow that produces viable seeds. I put them in little plastic jars with screw tops, making sure they are completely dry first. I tape a label on each jar with the variety and year I saved them. Then I put the jars in a small tote box on the shelf. When it's time to plant, I will use some from the most recent batch I have, maybe throwing in a few from an earlier year for diversity. I try to save enough so I can hold some back in case the weather doesn't cooperate and I have to plant them a second or third time.

    I didn't know you could freeze some seeds without killing them, and the only things I keep in the refrigerator besides food are bulbs and seeds needing stratification (currently seeds of apples, cherries, grapes, asparagus, and milkweed for the monarch butterflies, some very small onions, and some native edible bulbs that I don't want the squirrels to eat while they are dormant). Those stay in plastic bags of damp peat moss in the vegetable crisper or wherever else they will fit. I may eventually try to save some more seeds in the refrigerator, but my fridge can get pretty full, and my present method seems to work okay for now. The plants started from my own saved seeds generally seem healthier than the ones available for purchase in the spring.

  • Alison
    Alison Posts: 179 ✭✭✭

    Thanks for all the comments and ways people are saving seeds.

    I think we can all agree that having viable seeds for such a time as now is very important. Sharing seeds and having them acclimatized to our current conditions is also a great awareness.

    While I had been very much aware of the changes of weather over the past 8-10 years, I'd not considered that seeds sitting in a fridge for 3-4 years might not be as happy to jump up and produce as well as they might have in the past. A great awareness.

    There is the challenge of having a poor crop and not having back up also if some excess seeds aren't kept. As a self confessed seed hoarder I have my seeds in the fridge as I had anticipated that extra seeds may be needed in the future and it might be harder to get them when I needed them. In that scenario I felt having to pay them more attention to thrive would likely outweigh the negatives of not having any.

    I've also gifted seeds to people who have expressed an interest in gardening, recently started a garden, a local church who dedicated their garden space to growing food for the community and when they were going to grow some seedlings to give away to the local residents. It's great to know that my seed hoarding may help feed others, help them have a productive and positive hobby, while also saving families money.


  • Homestead Hubby
    Homestead Hubby Posts: 40 ✭✭✭

    Thanks for the tips. for those that store in binders, what kind of sheet to you use for this? Is there a special seed pack sheet or is it like baseball cards or photo sheet? Appreciate the help

  • jmachledt
    jmachledt Posts: 26 ✭✭✭

    I've heard that storing seeds in cooler temps (under ground, seed cellar) or room temperature in the home could work. We're trying some heirloom seeds from 2015 this year and crossing our fingers. They were stored in the garage for a few years in Indiana, so it's a little bit of a gamble.

  • EarlKelly
    EarlKelly Posts: 230 ✭✭✭

    Here is what I use for my seeds. Found them on sale at Micheals. Normally 49.99 got two of them for 14.99 One for my vegetable seeds the other for my flower seeds. Fit on my refrigerator shelf no problem. Arranged them alphabetically, easy to grab and go. Hope it helps someone.

  • maimover
    maimover Posts: 359 ✭✭✭

    Just really getting started last year, I saved onion seeds (wasn’t sure what the plant was doing but let it go to see what happened. A few of them made seed pods. This year planted them. I was so excited! All the years of planting onion sets and this year they were started from seed. Also planted them in groups this year instead of rows and am very anxious to see how they turn out and if they do. Also had some oregano go to seed and planted them this year; they are doing swell also. Kept quite a few others as well. I’m thinking about what is most important wealth wise I believe it would be seeds! I found a true love of the process last year and hope to keep it going this year.

  • jmachledt
    jmachledt Posts: 26 ✭✭✭

    This looks very organized! I love it! We're hoping to learn about seed-saving so that we can do something similar and try to keep our own seeds rather than buying every or every other year. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • coachtmb
    coachtmb Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

    New to seed storage this year... so many different ideas here, not sure which way to go about it.

    I did pose the question to a seed selling company and was told that moisture absorbers would not be recommended as the seeds need some moisture.

    To freeze, fridge or just cupboard?... sealed in jars, plastic or just paper?... moisture absorbers or not?

    ugh :)

    Thoughts on this...

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,505 admin

    @coachtmb TGN's Academy has a course "Saving Quality Seeds".

  • coachtmb
    coachtmb Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

    Thanks torey.

    I can't find the course though

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,505 admin

    @coachtmb I'm not sure if this will take you to the course or if it will just give a link to my course completion.

    But if you go to the main academy page it is the sixth one on the page.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 721 ✭✭✭✭

    I throw all my seeds together in a jar and just sprinkle them all over my yard and garden. It's pretty cool.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 994 ✭✭✭✭

    @nicksamanda11 that's how mother nature does it too :)

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I store mine in sealed mason jars with the little dessicant packs included. Someone on TGN gave me the suggestion, can't remember who.

    Some seeds should be frozen for a week or two first to kill any insect eggs that may be inside the seeds. Peas are a good example of this. When thawing after the freeze, be careful not to let the dried seed take in moisture again.

    Other seed types don't seem to remain viable long no matter how they are stored. Does anyone have good suggestions for keeping onions seed viable for several years? The only idea I can think of is freezing it and keeping it frozen.

    Seed storage can be useful if you make your own hybrids. It's a bit of work to grow the two parent varieties and cross them, but you could easily produce 5 or more years of seed in a single year of hybridizing, then gradually use that in future years. Some experimental growers are encouraging home gardeners to do more hybridizing of heirloom varieties to increase hybrid vigor and reduce inbreeding depression.