After your first gardening season, theoretically, you never have to buy seeds again.
You read that right!
What I mean is that if you learn how to harvest and store seeds correctly, you’ll never have to buy them from a store again. In fact, you’ll even be able to share the love and pass some stored seeds on to friends and family.
Interested? Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to store seeds!
The Right Way to Store Seeds
Learning how to store seeds correctly as a home gardener is an important step to ensure proper garden planning and will save you money in the long run.
The last thing you want is to pull incorrectly stored seeds out in the spring, plant them, have nothing happen, and then have to start over with store-bought seeds.
A few simple steps will almost guarantee another season of fresh garden veggies, fruits, and flowers from this year’s seeds.
First, you’ve got to prepare your seeds. Next, you’ve got to get everything organized. Lastly, you’ll have to put them in the right storage container to make sure they’ll be ready to use the next season.
Let’s take a closer look at these steps.
Preparing Seeds for Storage
Preparing seeds correctly is the foundation for storing them successfully. Inside each seed is an embryonic plant that needs nearly perfect conditions to stay viable.
If they’re not prepared properly, no amount of storage will make them germinate next season.
The first step in storing seeds for long-term use is harvesting the seeds you’ll store. You can’t store what you don’t have!
The way in which you harvest seeds is going to depend on the type of plant from which you’re harvesting.
If you’re harvesting fruits and vegetables like zucchini or strawberries, the wet flesh must be thoroughly rinsed off the seeds after picking and eating it. Just set the seeds aside as you prepare your food.
To get the bits of flesh off the seeds, rinse them in a fine mesh sieve, pressing them against the side with a spoon if necessary.
To harvest flower seeds, wait until the flower is done blooming and the petals have dried up. Cut the flower head off the plant and leave it to dry up completely, then gently remove the seeds from the center of the flower.
Once you’ve harvested your seeds, the next step to storing them long-term is to ensure they’re completely dry before putting them away.
Fresh seeds must be dried for 7-10 days before storage. To do this, spread them out in a single, even layer on a smooth surface. Don’t put them out to dry on a paper towel or a wash cloth because the fibers will stick to them as they dry.
For even drying, stir the seeds every couple of days.
Even if your seeds feel dry to the touch a day or two later, if you were to store them right away, you’d probably find them spoiled or sprouted when you retrieved them in the spring, so make sure to take the time to do it correctly.
Seed Storage Containers
The right kind of seed container will make or break your long-term seed storage. There are containers for every budget and circumstance, so let’s take a closer look at a few.
What to Look For in a Container
The quality of the seal on the seed storage container is of utmost importance! Any tiny bit of moisture that sneaks into your container will ruin the seeds completely.
Keeping track of what seed is is crucial when storing seeds long-term. The worst thing that could happen is to put all the work into storing them correctly in the fall, only to pull them out in the spring and not know what’s a bell pepper seed and what’s a tomato seed.
This can be easily accomplished by having the right seed storage equipment. Simple labels, envelopes, or even individual containers make it possible to keep everything straight. That way, you’re not planting seeds in a flower garden and ending up with a front bed full of tomatoes!
Different Kinds of Seed Storage Containers
There are several types of seed storage containers you can consider when researching how to store seeds. Some are marketed specifically for seeds, while others are repurposed.
We’ll start with more out-of-the-box ideas and end with some more traditional options.
Believe it or not, photo storage containers work perfectly for seed storage! It makes sense since both seeds and photos do best when stored away from light and moisture.
Novelinks offers a basic, clear case with 16 separate compartments. Each of the compartments could hold harvested seeds, but they’re also the perfect size to hold most envelopes of store-bought seeds.
To be 100% sure that your seeds are safe from all outside factors, this fire and waterproof photo storage case from ENGPOW is the right storage solution for how to store seeds in your home. It will keep your seeds safe in a fire up to 2,000°F and is water resistant.
If you want to steer away from plastic, glass jars are a fantastic way to store seeds long-term.
If you’ve got little ones around, you can even reuse sanitized baby food jars for a simple seed storage solution.
When reusing jars, just be aware it may not be best for long-term storage because there’s no great way to reseal them. It should be fine from season to season as long as they’re stored in an ideal location where they’re not likely to get wet, but they’re not recommended for longer than that.
Another good solution for how to store seeds in glass is mini mason jars. The odds are good that you don’t have that many seeds if you’re just harvesting from your own home garden, so there’s no need to use a standard 16-oz jar.
Verones sells 4-oz jars that have great seals and are leak-proof. Each comes with a label to put on top that can be erased and reused another year.
Actual Seed Storage Pieces
This seed storage box comes with 38 different tubes that can be individually labeled and stored in a convenient carrying case. Reviews say the seals are very tight, but the actual handle seems flimsy.
A stackable seed organizer is great if you have a wide variety of seeds you need to store and are looking for a compact storage option. Each of the small 30 capsules is pre-labeled 1-30, so you can create a simple reference list of what is in each container.
How to Store Seeds for Long-Term Use
You need to know a few key things about how to store seeds that will make the process a breeze.
Clearly labeling your seeds is an important step to storing seeds long-term.
What label you use depends on how you store your seeds. Here are a few ideas:
Whatever avenue you go down, make sure everything is labeled clearly to make the next planting season a piece of cake.
The best practice for long-term seed storage has seeds stored in a cool place. Warmth is going to shorten a seed’s shelf life. It shouldn’t be freezing somewhere, but it shouldn’t be in a shed outside. The ideal temperature is between 35-40°F.
Moisture is the biggest enemy of long-term seed storage. Put together dampness and darkness and you have mold’s dreamland. It will ruin your seeds.
Making sure your seeds stay airtight is going to keep them dormant longer. No fresh air means no growth, which is exactly what you want for seeds stored over the winter.
Reduce Light Exposure
Seeds are living things, which means they follow natural rhythms. For seeds, light means it’s time to start growing, so any prolonged exposure to light runs the risk of your seeds beginning to sprout prematurely.
How do I know my seeds are still good?
You can do a simple germination test if you’re not sure your long-term seed storage was successful on your first try.
You simply need a spray bottle with water, paper towels, plastic sandwich baggies, and 10 of the seeds in question.
Lightly spray the paper towel with water and spread the seeds out on one side of it. Fold the other half of the paper towel over, making sure all of the seeds are covered. Place the damp paper towel and seeds inside a sandwich bag, but make sure to leave them open.
Store the bag on a countertop for ten days, monitoring the moisture level daily. Just add a spray or two of water if things seem to be drying out.
At the end of 10 days, the seeds that are going to germinate will have germinated. You’re looking for a 70% germination rate or higher, so if 7-10 seeds have sprouted, you’re good to go! If they haven’t yet, you can leave them a few more days and see if they’re late bloomers.
If you don’t see that germination rate, that means something went wrong in the storage process. Evaluate what you did, and then try again this year!
Can I use these same storage techniques for store-bought seeds?
Absolutely, yes! Just start at the section about choosing the right container and go from there. Everything else is transferable to purchased seeds.
Wrapping Up How to Store Seeds
I hope you now feel confident in how to store seeds long-term. Remember to follow the basics— dry, dark, and organized. You’re now ready to start harvesting your seeds to enjoy for years to come!
To learn more about using the seeds you’ve saved, check out our page all about Seed Starting!
- About the Author
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Stephanie Lamberth is a writer who gained most of what she knows about gardening from summers spent on her family’s farm tending, picking, and storing the produce they grew.
Her family started and ran a thriving farm that fed hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the community with fresh, naturally grown produce. She learned the effort and the reward of growing your own food!
Stephanie now lives in Tennessee with her husband and three kids. Their schedules don’t allow for a large garden, but she loves incorporating herbs from their flowerbeds in her kitchen and using her knowledge to help others.
Stephanie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org