Seed saving and storage are important skills to master for any gardener - a little planning and effort at the end of the growing season can cut your seed costs to next to nothing - and allow you to share your favorite heirloom varieties with your friends, as well as creating self-sufficiency. Also, seeds from plants that come from and have adapted to your garden site are generally healthier and more resilient.
For success, the two basic seed saving concepts to remember is the need to reduce moisture and reduce heat to the proper levels to prolong the life of the seed.
The 4 Rights of Seed Saving
- Right Type - Only heirloom seeds may be saved for future use - no hybrids.
- Right Time - Collect the seed when it is mature.
- Right Purity - Protect the purity of the seed and protect from cross-pollination.
- Right Label - Correctly label the seeds.
The 5 Steps of Seed Collection
1 - Mark the designated seed plants with red yarn.
2 - Harvest seeds when fully mature.
3 - Collect a small amount of seed from more than one plant to increase genetic diversity.
4 - Label the seed packets correctly.
5 - Store the seeds properly.
Short Term Storage (1 Year) - The Powdered Milk Method
1 - Place seed packets in a screw lid jar. (For a good sealing lid, replace the cardboard insert with a rubber gasket, such as a cut out tire tube).
2 - Put in several sachets of powdered milk (a sachet with a few spoonfuls of powdered milk wrapped in a tissue and tied with a twist tie).
3 - Secure the lid tightly.
4 - Place the jar in a cool location that is free from temperature fluctuations. (A refrigerator is best, but not necessary).
Long Term Storage (2-5+ Years) - The Silica Gel Method
Weigh all of the packed seed together and place it in a glass jar with a screw lid.
Weigh out the loose silica gel equal to the total weight of your packaged seed and place in same jar.
Secure the lid tightly, and keep the jar at room temperature for 7 days.
On the 7th day, quickly remove the seed packets and place them in another empty sealed jar.
The jar can now be placed in the freezer (ideally, a deep freezer).
(Silica Gel with moisture indicator may be purchased from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Extracting Seed From Storage
In both storage techniques, the intent is to keep moisture and humidity away from the seeds. During extraction, be sure to let the jars stand at room temperature overnight before opening the jars. This reduces the possibility of condensation forming on the seeds if they are still cool. Replace the lids quickly and do not allow the jars to stay open too long. Allow the extracted seed to stay at room temperature for two days before planting.
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques For Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth.
Saving Seeds by Mark Rogers
The Heirloom Gardener by Carol Jabs
Taylor's Guide To Heirloom Vegetables by Benjamin Watson
Shattering Food, Politics, And The Loss Of Genetic Diversity by Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney
Seed Sowing And Saving by Carole B. Turner
The bulk of the information on this page was graciously provided by Tal Blankenship - an entertaining and masterful seed saver and educator who lives in Southern Oregon. He would be more than happy to answer any of your seed saving and storage questions, and is a weath of information on the subject. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.