How to Store Garden Seeds: Preservation Tips, Do’s and Don’ts

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How to Store Garden Seeds – That collection of all your veggie and fruit seeds is highly precious, as it contains the makings of plant life…so what are the best ways to care for and keep them in ideal condition during the off season times when you won’t be using them?

Glad you asked. 

In some ways, the “big three” apply that is not that different from saving clay. Keep them dry, keep them in a dark (away  from direct sunlight anyway) place, and moderate temperature stable environment. 

Everything in between, I’m going over it all in this post. So let’s dig in…

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storing garden seeds

Saving and Storing Seeds From Fruits

If you had a few veggies that went to seed, you may have thought about keeping and preserving the seeds for the next growing season. I do this, and sometimes I get mixed results, but it’s always worthwhile.. I’ve saved seeds from cucumbers, cantaloupes, butternut squash and who knows what else. There is always a protocol I follow with them regardless of fruit type.

It’s a beautiful thing, right? We harvest fruit, and then save the seeds from it so we can potentially produce MORE fruit next season! An age-old perpetual cycle of growth and regeneration. Here is how you preserve your seeds from overripe produce so it can have another shot next go-around…

Here is a big cucumber (from my summer 2023 crop) that went to seed…you can tell by the deep yellow color that it is past its prime. It weighed a pound (yes, that’s a postal scale, it’s all I had at the moment…I eventually did find a kitchen scale at a local yard sale…) And then, on to cut it open by slicing it lengthwise so I could harvest the seeds to sow for the next growing season.

preserving seeds from cucumber

I scoop out the bulk of seeds and do the best to clean out the slimy part that surrounds them, and once I have rinsed the seeds thoroughly, I will spread them out on something (paper towels will stick- wax paper is good though), and set them out on a windowsill to dry out. They have to be thoroughly, I repeat, thoroughly dry before they can go somewhere.It usually takes a few days before they reach that point.

Sometimes I will turn them over as the side on the paper gets less exposure to air. Most likely there will still be a little bit of rind or pulp still stuck on just pick it off.

Now comes the storage products…

Paper or Plastic….?

It’s not just a cliche grocery store checkout question. That’s an optional or open ended question though For seeds, though, here’s my answer, Paper. Paper is the best choice. For one thing, paper envelopes are opaque, so light can’t pass though them. If you can’t find some of the yellow types I got some small office envelopes with the security blocking pattern on the inside. Worked like a charm. Then I just write the name of the seed and the date on the outside. That’s it.

Ziplock bags are not a good idea, including the “snack size” you probably are familiar with, As handy as those dainty bags may seem, they’re transparent and let in light and also trap in air pockets . And, yes, I used to use these for this purpose, until I got wise. No matter how much I manipulate those little bags’ top seal, I can never get it just right. So ditch those as far as seeds go!

best way to store garden seeds

If garden seeds get exposed to light, even if its just inadvertently, it can ‘trick” their natural cycle and the instinct is to sprout. Well, try, anyway. And if later on you should plant them, they may not do anything, as their cycle was interrupted. So don’t let them see daylight until its time.

And don’t use the little bitty teeny office supply container -thingamajigs (made for paper clips, pushpins, etc.) Yes, guilty of that too, sometimes the lids don’t stay on well, and yes, they’re transparent – so it’s a bust.

Once you have all your seeds organized in each envelope, label them and include the date, too – then you can put them all in an airtight storage container, or a few at a time in a mason jar, whatever suits you.

Other things you can add can help diminish moisture as well, like those desiccant packets that you find in vitamin bottles and pairs of shoes (you know the ones that look like mini sachets that say “do not eat”) and uncooked rice, too. Drop one of those silica sachets in there if you save them.

Now about what storage place overall when all is said and done.

The room should fit the above main big three criteria: dry, dark and temperature stable.

Basements are out…I don’t have a basement, so it’s moot….But there is way too much humidity going on to be viable.

The outdoor shed – Also, not a good gambit either, as it could be subject to temperature fluctuations – even if you don’t have a changeable climate like I have to contend with, it can still happen and these changes could put stress on the contained seeds.

Kitchen pantry – Very good. Be sure to keep the seeds in something airtight as it could be prone to insects that reside here, like silverfish.

Garage – Eh, not good either. Too exposed to the elements ( I don’t have a garage, either)

Closet – Excellent choice as it’s small and contained ad not subject to changes in air or temp. However, I do have my grow lights on for stretches of time for my winter seedlings, which doesn’t exactly bode well, unless I keep them in a side further from the light source.

How Long Can Seeds Be Stored?

Seeds, like many consumable goods in life, have “best by…” dates stamped on them. You can spot it in the top of the back of the envelope. As I like to say “It’s a guideline, not gospel”. Which means, there is no need to throw out seeds that have gone past the date…It mostly means that they have optimum germination power then, but if the envelope remains unopened, they are still capable of producing.

how to store garden seeds
The “sell by…” date in the corner…

Some vegetable seeds may last longer than others. In general, here’s the average length of time that certain various veggie seeds last on average:

Lettuce… 6 years
Cucumbers and anything in the brassica family….5 years
Nightshades and chili peppers.., squash…..4 years
Corn , beans, peas, spinach….3 years

Can you refrigerate or freeze seeds?

If it is for the long term, as long as they are thoroughly dry beforehand. Also make sure you have a storage place for each seed type AND then a protective container to hold the whole batch. This is probably not necessary if it’s just to keep them for the next six months. If we’re talking about seeds for years on out, then this is a viable idea.

Hope this helps and good luck! Many long fruitful harvests to you.

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