Every year that your garden grows is an opportunity to have another garden. How? By learning how to store your own seeds for the future.
Learning how to store dry seeds is one way to keep your food security intact. When you save seeds from one harvest, you are ensuring that another harvest can happen the next time. However, learning how to store seeds just takes a few skills in order to have the best outcome. You will only need a cool place, an air-tight container, and leftover seeds for your short-term storage for the next season.
For your long-term storage, for your vegetable garden each year, a cold storage area with constant temperature is the easiest way to store your seeds for future planting. You will find long term storage seeds to purchase in a seed storage box, commonly a metal container such as a #10 can that is vacuum sealed, or in a Mylar bag. Many home gardeners will have a few of these on hand for planting time.
Storing seeds from your own garden for the next growing season is done best by using only heirloom varieties of plants. Heirloom plants refer to plants that have been generations old, and produce the same plants, year after year.
Hybrid plants generally do not produce plants from seeds grown each year. This is because the plants are created in controlled environments, often over a period of years, and are designed to withstand disease and pests better than their heirloom counterparts. The seeds from these plants do not often produce well on their own for the average home gardener.
The next way to store seeds is by buying extra seed packets and saving them. Let’s look at all the ways that you can store seeds, and the seed storage containers that you can use.
How do you store seed packets?
Storing seeds in packets isn’t difficult. The best way to start is by storing them in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for planting the following year. Some people will store them in photo albums, or in a shoe box to keep them organized.
If you are looking to store your seeds more long term, consider vacuum sealing them to keep them cool and dry. Mylar bags are nice to use, as they also block light, but if you only have mason jars or vacuum sealer bags, those will be just fine.
Can you store seeds in mason jars?
Yes and no. This will entirely depend on who you ask. Some master gardeners will say “no, this isn’t enough light blocking”, but others will say “if that’s what you have, then use what you have.” I err on the side of using what you have.
To store seeds in mason jars, it’s best to place them in an envelope that is marked with what they are, variety, and year harvested and saved. Then, place that envelope in a mason jar and seal. Vacuum sealing the lid is best, but you can also simply screw the lid on tightly and store away.
Put the mason jar in a cool, dry and dark place such as the back of your pantry, out of direct sunlight. Some people will suggest storing them in the back of the fridge as well. If you think your pantry or room temperature may get above 80 degrees, this may be the route to take to avoid early germination. Storing in the fridge also helps keep humidity levels constant, which is the best way to keep your seeds viable.
Can you store seeds in a paper bag?
By themselves, it’s not the best idea to store seeds in paper bags. They will not keep out the moisture that can cause germination. Bugs can also get into the paper bags and destroy your seeds. There is nothing more disheartening than going to plant a garden than to find that the seeds you were counting on either destroyed, are moldy, or worse, germinated early and then died.
Can you store seeds in plastic bags or other plastic containers?
Storing seeds in plastic ziplock bags, or other plastic containers will help minimize the air and moisture getting to them. However, this is best for seeds you are planning on using again in a few months.
What different seeds can you store?
You can store any vegetable seeds from your garden. Again, the best results will come from heirloom plants. Some of the different types of seeds that are good options for saving are:
- Tomato seeds
- Lettuce seeds
- Cucumber seeds
- Herb seeds
- Zucchini seeds
- Squashes (pumpkin, acorn, butternut, spaghetti)
- Beans (green, drying beans)
- Corn seeds
- Pea seeds
- Flower seeds
What are your favorite seeds to store year after year?