Saving seeds

Posted on: 06 February 2018 by 50connect editorial

Gardeners often have a few extra seeds or seed packs after planting their gardens, and provided they've been stored correctly last year's leftovers are usable today.

plant seeds

Seeds are dormant living things that do not germinate to produce a new plant until warm temperatures and moisture break their dormancy. As we approach mid-February maybe you are thinking about some early potting or growing on in a cultivator.

Some garden seeds can be stored for long periods without much special treatment. To keep seeds dormant, you must keep them cool and dry.

How long can seeds remain dormant before being revived?

  • Five Years: Cucumber, endive and melon.
  • Four Years: Cabbage, cauliflower, aubergine, pumpkin, radish and squash.
  • Three Years: Beans, celery, carrot, lettuce, pea, spinach and tomato.
  • Two Years: Beets and peppers.
  • One Year: Sweetcorn, onion, parsley and parsnips.

Relative seed shelf lives can be greatly improved by using several storage methods available to almost any homeowner. The key to storage is maintaining a constant temperature of preferably between 35 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and eliminating excess moisture because germination is hastened by high humidity and moisture. Either in contact with the seed or in the storage container.

Stored seeds

Provided your seeds have been stored in a non-damp environment, they should be fine for use this spring. You'll get away with the odd pack hidden away in your kitchen drawers, but they've been stored outdoors they need to have been in a storage container to have a reasonable chance of germination.

  • Closed containers - Use cans or glass jars with screw-top lids. Plastic 35 mm film containers are ideal for seed storage.
  • Drying Agents - Placing an absorbent material in the container extends the life of the seed. Dry powdered milk works well.  It attracts moisture from its surroundings, so don't open the storage container except to use the seeds or change the drying agent.

Inexpensive drying agent

  1. Unfold and stack four facial tissues.
  2. Put two heaping tablespoons of powdered milk on one corner.
  3. Fold or roll the tissue into a small packet, sealing the ends with tape or rubber bands.
  4. Place the packet in the larger container holding the seeds and seal the container. The drying agent should be changed every six months.
  5. Store in a refrigerator or a similar cool spot. Do not put it in the freezer though!

This method is a great way to save commercial seeds or those you have collected from friends.

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