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Storing Your Heirloom Seeds – Top Tips

Heirloom Seed Storage

Today, we’re going to share one of the top benefits of growing heirloom seeds and storing your heirloom seeds. While it’s nice knowing that you’re eating food that grew the way nature intended, that’s not the biggest benefit. The real number one advantage is the fact that you can get predictable results from your plants. Even when you collect, store, and sow your own seeds. Read on to find out our top tips for storing your heirloom seeds.

If we’re to talk about hybrids, they’re usually bred from parent plants with a carefully selected genetic composition. However, recombination of genes means that later generations will be very variable. Sometimes so different from their parent plants that you can hardly believe it. As for GMOs (which we don’t stock), most of them are infertile and collecting and storing seeds would likely be futile.

Heirloom seeds, however, comprise genetic combinations which, though they allow for some variability, are reasonably predictable across generations. There’s no need for controlled pollination. And you can store and sow to your heart’s content with very few surprises along the way. 

Success For Your Seed Harvest Depends Largely on Storage

While there are many different methods used for collecting and processing newly harvested seeds storage is one of the most important factors. The big seed companies go high-tech with airtight vacuum storage containers – and cryogenic storage isn’t as rare as you might think. 

As a home gardener, investing in liquid nitrogen and expensive, purpose-designed storage containers will be out of your reach. There’s no need to give up on the idea of storing your own seeds. Our tips will help you to succeed – and cost us a sale next year, but that’s fine. We do what we do because we love natural gardening, and we’re here to help!

First do Your Homework

The first step towards successful seed storage is the extraction process. While most pods, can be dried and stored as is or dried, removed from the pods and stored. Many species carry their seeds within juicy fruits. 

Extracting the seeds so that they can be dried and stored can be something of a process. Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look for information and follow the tips and tricks you find during the course of your research. 

It’s also worth noting that not all seeds are suitable for storage. While most veggie crops allow for this and can be stored for up to three years. Some seeds start germinating the minute they hit the ground. This is often the case with tropical plants and since it makes commercial (and household) agriculture a little difficult. Most veggies don’t fall into this category. Nevertheless, it’s good to check!

Cleaned, Dried and Ready to Store: Dos and Don’ts

Supposing that your seeds are cleaned and dried, here are the dos and don’ts you need to keep in mind in order to make your project a success. 

  1. Never store seeds in plastic containers: OK, so you might get away with it, but plastic is often inclined to sweat, or air inside the container might cool and give off moisture. 
  1. Choose glass or paper: Glass is pretty good for storing properly dried seeds, and an airtight bottle limits exposure to ambient humidity. Paper is next best, but the seeds won’t last as long. A little raw rice can help to absorb moisture that might otherwise affect seeds. I don’t use it, but if humidity is a big problem for you, it might help. 
  1. Keep it cool, dry and dark: It’s a bit like storing food. If it’s warm and bright, there’s a better chance of it going “off,” and since you don’t want that happening to your seeds, it makes sense to choose a dark cupboard away from sources of heat. 
  1. Don’t forget to label it: After cleaning a batch of seeds, you might decide that it’s an unforgettable experience and you’ll never forget what that was and when you did it. Don’t count on it! Label your seeds with the variety name and write down the storage date.
  1. Watch for parasites: Sometimes, certain species of insects lay their eggs inside seeds. The larvae eat the seeds from the inside out after hatching. Sometimes, they make little holes and push waste matter out through them. You’ll usually see a powderyness collecting in the container if this has happened. If it does, sow the seeds immediately (sometimes you can get lucky with a few survivors) or discard them. As for moulds and fungi, they’re usually a death sentence for seeds.
  1. Don’t keep it for too long: Once again, it’s a matter of doing your homework. Some species, usually those that produce seeds with very hard coats, can last for hundreds of years in storage. Most veggies don’t fit this category. As a rule of thumb, sow your stored seeds as soon as the weather is favorable. Depending on the species and method of storage, there may still be some viability for up to three years. Seed embryos aren’t immortal, and germination percentage will decrease over time. 

Is Storing Your Heirloom Seeds a Saving?

In gardening there are many answers that begin with “That depends on…” and this is no exception. Some seeds are easy to clean, dry, and store, while others will take hours of work to prepare. If you have the time, it can be worth it and quite fun to do into the bargain, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 

Storage space can also be a bit of an issue, but if your cupboards aren’t already overflowing. It shouldn’t be impossible to find the right place to make a seed store. Do remember to sort through your seed store every time the season changes. This means you don’t miss sowing dates and end up with seed that’s so old that it grows weakly if it grows at all. 

We hope that you have a learnt a new thing or 2 about top tips for storing your heirloom seeds. Seed storage can certainly be a saving if you like the little tasks it involves. If you’re too busy, we’re ready to act as your seed store every time you’re ready to sow. You’ll also get the benefit of trying different varieties – ones you haven’t grown before – and that’s a plus! While we love certain varieties and want to grow them every year, gardening should still retain a sense of adventure and a few little novelties.  At Seeds of Plenty, we have plenty of that too!

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