What’s the best way to store my garden seeds?
Seeds are living organisms, so don’t simply toss them into a shed or shoe box. To keep seeds you buy viable as long as possible, you should always keep them as cool and dry as you can. Usually, your best option is to keep them in the refrigerator, sealed in a glass jar.
If you live in a humid region, you can add silica gel to absorb additional moisture. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange sells silica gel beads for drying seeds, or you can find them at craft supply stores, where they’re sold for drying flowers. You can also use powdered milk as a desiccant: Measure 1 to 2 tablespoons from a freshly opened package onto a piece of fabric or a paper towel, fold it up, and then place it in the container with the seed packets. Powdered milk will absorb excess moisture for about six months.
If you’re saving seeds from your garden, dry them well before you store them in the refrigerator. Spread the mature seeds in a shallow layer over a fine mesh screen or ceramic plate, and dry the seeds in a warm, dark and airy location for several weeks, until the seeds are hard and no longer pliable. A fan may help speed up the process. If possible, gently stir the seeds every now and then to expose them evenly to the air. Package the dry seeds in envelopes labeled with the variety and date, and then store them in glass jars in the refrigerator.
If treated well, your garden seeds will stay viable for one to five years, depending on the plant type. To learn how to test your seeds’ viability, read Testing Seed Viability.
To learn more about how to store seeds, see Savvy Seed Care.
Photo by Hannah Kincaid: Airtight jars placed in the refrigerator will safeguard the viability of the garden seeds stored within.
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.