Tips On Saving Seeds

Guest post by – Jerry G

There are no guarantees in this world we live in today. We can’t rest assured that the grocery store will always be there or that its shelves will always be stocked full of food. We can’t count on our local home supply store having rows and rows of different seed packets to choose from if we were to ever need to grow our own food. We need to face the reality that things may “go south”, and if they do, we’ll only be able to count on ourselves, and the skills and knowledge we have acquired, in order to survive.

In this, my first guest blog for TheSurvivalistBlog.net, I’d like to share with you a few tips on how to store your own seeds. These are tricks I’ve picked up from my mother and grandmother, other survivalist and organic gardeners I know or have known in my lifetime, or just simply by me learning the hard way and adapting my methods.

Well, to start with, I just need to say it, don’t use genetically modified seeds in your garden; use heirloom seeds. Humans have survived and flourished for thousands of years planting heirloom seeds, and why we decided to start messing with seeds 40 or 50 years ago is beyond me. If we are ever thrown into a world where we need to grow our own food to survive, trust me, you want plants that are grown naturally and contain the most nutrients. Hybrid seeds, and the plants they produce, have been shown to contain much less nutrition than organically grown plants, and often, they require much more maintenance to grow successfully.

In addition, hybrid seeds can’t be saved. The majority of them turn out to be duds, and when new plant life should be growing in your garden, you’ll be faced with a less than 20% growth rate. Yeah, you may survive that first year, but when year 2 comes along, you’ll be starving.

Now, after your harvest, be sure to save as many seeds as you can—it’s much better to have too many than not enough. Bring your seeds inside and lay them on paper bags in a cool, dry place to draw-out the moisture in the seeds. Okay, done. But here’s where people get stuck: What do you DO with all those seeds? How and where should you store them? How long will they keep?

How should you store them? The best way I’ve come up with is to store them in mason jars. I also have some old baby food jars I use, but those are difficult to find anymore. Either way, a water-tight jar with a secure lid will do the trick. You may even want to purchase some silica packets to throw in with the seeds to draw-out any extra moisture.

My best suggestion as the where to store them is a cool, dry place. Some people will store seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, some people have dry basements or cellars to store them in, and some people have sheds/garages they can store their seeds in. Regardless of where, cool and dry is key. If you choose to store them in your refrigerator or freezer, definitely use the silica packets.

And how long can you keep the seeds? How long will they be viable? It really just depends on the type of seed. What I do is date my seeds so that I know how long they’ve been in the jar. Then, each Spring I plant a handful of each kind from the oldest jars to see if they grow. What I’ve found is that most seeds will last 4-5 years but not much longer.

If you are not already saving seeds, I suggest you start. It does not take much time or energy, and these little seeds could save your life in the future, so it’s completely worth it. I would recommend researching your area to find out what kinds of plants grow best where you live and if the seeds of these plants require any special treatment. Knowledge is the best tool you can have when it comes to survival. Thanks for reading!

Comments

  1. Marivene says:

    I also store some of my larger seeds in glass bottles, but I have found that empty amber Rx bottles work very well, too, especially for tiny seeds. I peel off the labels, & write what is inside on the side of the bottle. The smaller bottles make it easy to share plentiful seeds like squash, etc, with my daughters.

  2. MerryMouse says:

    I harvested my favorite snow pea seeds last summer and dried them. Stored them in a cottage cheese tub. When I checked them a month later each one had a perfectly round hole drilled in the side and tiny little bugs emerging! I had to learn about pea weevils real quick! Whole crop destroyed! The seeds were infested before harvest. Anyone know how to prevent this?

    • Momturtle says:

      It is very important when saving seeds to find some way to freeze them in order to kill insects that may be in the seeds before you even harvest them. Another option is to put an oxygen absorber in the jar. Without oxygen the larva can’t develop and will die before destroying the seeds. You use the same techniques that you would use to store grain and such for long term. Remove the oxygen, store in a carbon dioxide atmosphere. Anything to make it hostile to breathing life.

      • MerryMouse says:

        Bet that would work. The eggs are laid on the growing pods and they eat in to the seeds where they pupate. I will give another go this year. Maybe put nylon stocking over the pods I intend to harvest for seeds. Thanks guys!

    • Try placing seeds in a sealed jar, with desiccant for a week and then freezing for a few days. Books say, the eggs will come back and refreezing is necessary later on. I have found that one freezing works. Oxygen absorbers work for big lots. Dry ice has not worked well for me. Diatomaceous earth is used by those storing seeds by the ton. Use enough to coat the dry seed and seal. Food grade D.E. (keeps forever) is great parasite control for livestock and me.

  3. The book, “Seed to Seed” by Ashworth is great. Also search: Long term seed storage. Practice makes Perfect

  4. Curley Bull says:

    What if you use 1/2 pint jars and vacuum seal them?

    • Curley Bull says:

      My “baby” is 42 and I haven’t bought baby food in a very long time. I never paid attention to the containers the grandkids baby food came in.

    • American pacrat says:

      Curley Bull
      I use the vacuum seal on my baby food jars with spices inside. See no reason for it not to work on garden seeds, try it as an experiment.
      Recently opened a jar with poultry seasoning I put up over two years ago, it smell fresh just as if I had brought it home from the store.

  5. American pacrat says:

    Guess who will be keeping all of the baby food jars she thought she no longer needed. Have used them for other storage items by placing them inside vacuum seal bags and sealing until I hear the lid pop on the jar. May work for your seed storage if you do not have ‘food grade DE’.
    Thank you for the article, it is timely since the gardening bug is biting every one whether we wish it or not.

  6. Aren’t there important considerations about:

    1) The veggies / fruits you harvest to eat are harvested sooner; the ones you want to get seed from, you “let it go to seed” – which means they stay in the garden longer. But how much longer? How do you know when is best?

    2) How do you harvest the seeds? Getting seeds out of fruits and veggies can be tricky. Any good suggestions there? Any generalizations that work for a bunch of different ones?

    Thx! Hugely important topic!

    • mom of three says:

      Go to the gardeing articles, on this web sight I know I have read articles, on your exact questions. M.D. has saved all the articles from the last several year’s, they are all in categories.

    • http://www.seedsavers.org/ has lots of helpful information.

    • TN Mountain Mama says:

      Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth (sp?) is a fantastic resource. Over time, I have found that most seed-saving is intuitive if you think about how that particular plant would reproduce without human intervention. Squashes, melons, cucumbers, etc. would naturally ripen beyond the point of being palatable, then would take a few weeks for the outer shell to decompose before the seeds would be exposed. As it turns out, most squashes have a higher seed viability rate if you let them sit for a few weeks before harvesting the seeds from inside. Same thing with tomatoes– they would naturally fall to the ground, and take awhile for the meat of the tomato to rot away, and then the gelatinous coating on each seed to dissolve. If you are harvesting them for seed, you will need to scoop the seeds into a jar and fill it halfway with water to imitate this process. For herbs, flowers, greens, and anything in a pod, you want to wait until the seed pods are brown and dry before harvesting.
      These are just sweeping generalizations, and there is a lot of information available for the specific crops you might be interested in. But yes, you are exactly right that seed-saving extends the amount of time a crop stays in an area before you can clear it out. And that matters if you are trying to make the most of your growing space with succession planting. :-/

  7. “Now, after your harvest, be sure to save as many seeds as you can—it’s much better to have too many than not enough. Bring your seeds inside and lay them on paper bags in a cool, dry place to draw-out the moisture in the seeds. Okay, done.”
    There is much more to saving seeds than this… tomato seeds for example, require a little more preparation. Some need to be left to ‘go to seed’ on the vine. If you are thinking about saving seeds, please look up the seed saving technique for each type of seed you wish to save.
    I save my seeds folded in paper and placed in a mason jar with an oxygen absorber (in the old days, I used to heat up the jar, but all my folded packets in, and then cap the jar). I end up with two or three quart jars of seeds – based mostly on shared harvest times.

  8. It would be nice if we could get things to grow here. Starting year 3 of our trying. Have pretty much determined what NOT to do.

    I do try to put seeds up each year, but this year it will go in vacuum sealed jars with dates.

    Thanks for the info.

    • I have the same problem, JP. It’s difficult to get things to grow where I live, too. We can get hard freezes any time of year and there goes all your hard work. We, also, have crickets during the summer months, that I have yet to find any way to control. On top of those problems, the soil here is thick clay.

      My solution is container gardening. I use both pots with soil and hydroponics. I have a spare room where I’ve set up my indoor garden. I have light from the windows, but I supplement that with grow lights. Herbs and greens are really easy to grow indoors, in small containers. I now grow a lot of vegetables, as well, including potatoes and other root vegetables. I’ve found deep plastic storage containers work well for the root vegetables. You just have to be careful not to over water.

      I save seed, as well. I vacuum seal them in bags, though, not in jars. I find bags less bulky for storage and they don’t break. I store the bags in an old metal ammo can (to keep the mice out) in the basement.

      • GardenNut says:

        If you have cold night temperatures, crickets will be clinging to the grass in the early morning, in a stupor. They go in to a slight hibernation if it gets chilly. You can run around and pick them up and throw them in a milk jug, like you are picking berries. We used to use them for fishing, feeding the chickens, feeding the ducks, things like that.

      • Consider a greenhouse or row covers made from acrylic roofing panels. Ducks, besides making great fertilizer, will eat garden insects but not the mature plants. Kale likes the cold and tastes better with frost. You can dry it or freeze it. Many winters I can mulch my kale with straw and or snow (snow is easier to clean off) and harvest kale many months longer. Siberian kale will grow again (to set seed) in the spring as long as it does not get too cold. Maybe below 0 degrees F with no mulch.

        • I have a good 8 x 16 greenhouse, but it gets cold enough during the winter I still have to bring anything I want to continue to grow inside the house. The last few winters have been relatively warm, with the lowest temps around -10º. -20º to -30º, with highs in the teens, for weeks at a time, is common in normal winters and we have a short outdoor growing season any year.

          I had chickens for several years. They’re also good at keeping the insect population down. During the winter I heated the coop and they did well. One winter we lost power for six days. I used smudge pots to heat the coop the first two days, then got snowed in at work for three days. They were all dead when I got home.

          • West of the Big Chicken says:

            Mare,
            With weather like that, it is time to move West of the Big Chicken.
            Google Big Chicken

            • I assume you’re referring to Marietta. I already live about 2k miles west of there. I’m in the intermountain west, at about 7500 ft. I choose to stay here and make adjustments to accommodate the conditions where I choose to live. Thank you for your suggestion, though.

  9. Goatlover says:

    I store my saved seed using small Key Envelopes (that measure maybe 2″x3″ that you can buy at an office supply store. A box of 500 cost me less than $20 several years ago, and I’m still using that first box. Anyway, first I put the year, the seed name, time to plant, depth and spacing on the envelope. Then I put in enough seeds for about 50 plants. Then I group my small envelopes by seed type and put them in a Ziploc bag and place them in large metal cookie tins that are labeled either “SPRING” or “FALL”. They are stored in my spare refrigerator crisper drawer. So far, so good, and I’ve been doing this 5 or 6 years now.

    • Goat lover
      Very clever. This will work well for me. Thank you.

    • Goatlover
      Good idea for those Key Envelopes. Will have to look for them. I keep all my seeds in ziplocks in the crisper drawer also. I group them together somewhat for planting time.

  10. canadagal says:

    I printed off the “Grandpappy” site section on saving seeds. He has each vegetable listed separately. He also has the biennials like carrots, beets, parsnips etc where you have to grow a carrot the second year & save seeds from them. Good detail.

  11. Hello everyone. This will be my very first attemp to use Heirloom seeds. I do plan to save them and have plenty for the exit year as well. I have a friend that is allowing me the opportunity to use a already tilled plot of land as a garden. Anxiously waiting to plant and save those seeds in any food jars.