Propagation forum: Advice sought: seed organization / storage thing?

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Name: BetNC
Hendersonville, NC (Zone 7a)
Annuals Seed Starter Tomato Heads Hellebores Gardens in Buckets Plant and/or Seed Trader
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BetNC
Jan 6, 2016 5:34 PM CST
Currwently, my seed storage iconsists of a large bowl of uncooked rice, kept in my crisper, with an container thingie of de-humifying crystals and a few humidity strips. The seed packages are sunk into the rice to cover their seeds and my crisper is only used for my seed. There is NO way to organize this!

There is no more room in the bowl.

I COULD just get a larger bowl and some more rice, but my seed would STILL be un-organized. I KNOW there's a better way. . . but what?

I live in a small apartment, with no out-buildings / garage / attic. . .iof not my crisper or freezer, all else is my living area.

How can I store / organize my seed effectively and with low expense (ie something very basic, with little bells & whistles)?
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jan 6, 2016 5:51 PM CST
1.
The crisper drawer is actually the MOST humid part of a fridge, not the driest.

2.
All desiccants work by pulling humidity out of the air around it. If the desiccant and the seeds are not sealed together inside something very air-tight, that means that the desiccant will pull air out of the entire atmosphere, until it has exhausted all of its capacity.

To make fresh desiccant actually keep the SEEDS dry, you HAVE TO seal them together in something airtight. I use plastic tubs that once held several pounds of peanuts or peanut butter, but the lids don't seal air-TIGHT. Hence my desiccant packets only last 2-6 months, depending on how often I open the tubs.

Thumb of 2016-01-06/RickCorey/350545 Thumb of 2016-01-06/RickCorey/52a1aa

Less-tight seals mean you have to replace the desiccant more often, and/or use more of it.

Using those humidity cards is a GREAT idea, it tells you when the desiccant is used up. It would also tell you if you put (say) several tablespoons of fresh dry silica gel into a small jar and then sealed that jar really tight ... it might be able to dry the contents below 10% RH (Relative Humidity), and that would be TOO dry for maximum viable lifetime.

Now I use only one tablespoon or so of silica gel per tub. And i open them often enough that they never get to 10%, or stay there for long.

MAYBE double-bagging inside gallon-size FREEZER bags would keep humidity out. However, regular plastic bags leak pretty fast through the "zipper" and leak slowly right THROUGH the plastic film. Freezer bags are supposed to have a better seal so you get less freezer burn.


Thumb of 2016-01-06/RickCorey/af629c
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jan 6, 2016 5:59 PM CST
I really like silica gel. It's cheap and strong and can be regenerated at 250F.

I don't think rice is a very strong desiccant ... probably better when it is very dry. Someone posted the idea of baking the rice at a low temperature to get it as dry as possible before using it ... but never get it hot enough to turn brown, even lightly. The person posting the idea thought that would break down the rice's ability to attract humidity.

These are my articles on seed drying:

http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/1568/Dry-Saved-Seeds-...
http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/2534/Drying-Seeds-wit...
http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/649/Silica-Gel-for-Dr...
http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/648/Seed-Cleaning-Sie...

Paper envelopes are more convenient for seed drying than paper plates.
They can also be used for seed storage in dry climates.

I need some photos before this blog post is ready to be an article, but I have some suggestions for desiccants other than silica gel.
http://garden.org/blogs/view/RickCorey/
The idea of using "Oil Dry" (oil-absorbent Bentonite clay containing montmorillonite) came from Dave, but I haven't tried that yet, myself.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jan 6, 2016 6:29 PM CST
The smartest idea I heard of for organizing a seed stash was to use those clear plastic pages that baseball cards are stored in, or a photo album with clear pockets.

But those would not fit into a tub that could be sealed air-tight! (Unless someone has a way to really seal a sweater box.)

I mostly store seeds in 2"x3" ZipLocs, bundled inside bigger ZipLocs or glassine bags, inside 3-pound peanut tubs. With silica gel in paper coin envelopes.

Below I'll describe my "best practice". At one point I ran out of silica gel and didn't buy more for a while, so I wasn't following my own advice for a while. But at least I am protecting them from VARIATIONS in humidity even when the silica gel is mostly exhausted.

And using desiccant is really only important if you want to keep as many things as possible viable for as long as practical. If you only want to save most seeds for 3-5 years and can afford to let the viability decline gradually, it's not worth the effort unless you like fiddle.

Check out the seed collection advice from Royal Kew Gardens.

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens post-harvest handling advice for seed collection / Millennium Seed Bank:
(They keep re-organizing their site so that everything is harder to find. There used to be an extremely handy list that let you download all the factual, technical PDFs one after another.

Now you have to travel many links and scroll past many uninformative photos to find each PDF that has actual, useful, information.

PDF:
http://www.kew.org/sites/default/files/04-Post%20harvest%20h...

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/millennium-seed-bank...
http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/collections/millenni...

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/millennium-seed-bank...
http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/millennium-seed-bank...
http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/millennium-seed-bank...
http://www.kew.org/sites/default/files/10-Desiccation%20tole...

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/collections/millenni...



Stored seed's viable life span approximately doubles for every 10% reduction in seed eRH.
("eRH" is equilibrium Relative Humidity.)

Seed collections should be dried to around 15% eRH for long-term conservation of orthodox seeds.
15% eRH works out to 4-7% moisture content (% water by weight), mostly depending on the seeds' oil content.



I use plastic Ziploc bags or big glassine envelopes to group together related seeds. For example, GREEN-stemmed Bok Choy, or non-red cherry tomatoes, or extra-early, extra-cold-adapted tomatoes.

Or, if I buy an ounce of some seed for trading, I split the ounce up into 15-20 packets with (say) 1/8th teaspoon each. I use 2"x3" ZipLoc baggies for these trade pkts - 1 cent each at Wal-Mart, or higher quality for less money online.

I label each trading packet with a double-sided pre-printed label inside the packet.

Then I pack those 15-20 identical trade packets into one big bag or envelope so they stay together and I know when I'm getting low on that variety of seed.

Then I pack the big bags or envelopes into peanut-butter tubs, each tub being a larger category, like "All Tomatoes" or "Carrots, Radishes and Other Roots".

Then (the key thing), I put about [b] one tablespoonful of fresh dry silica gel into a PAPER coin envelope[/b ] and drop that into the tub with the seeds.

Seal the tub as tight as possible and try to open it as seldom as possible.

Humidity passes right through paper, hardly impeded. So the silica gel in the PAPER coin envelope has full access to the air inside the tub. Since the tub seals FAIRLY well, that means the silica gel quickly reaches equilibrium with the air inside the tub, which drops to something like 10-15% RH.

Humidity leaks slowly through small plastic ZipLocs, both through the zipper and by diffusing straight through the thin, not-very-dense polyethylene plastic. This is good, because now the air inside each 2"x3" trade ZipLoc can SLOWLY release any trapped humidity and CO2. As those diffuse SLOWLY into the air in the big tub, the silica gel garbs it up very quickly.

This keeps the seeds themselves dry even if they were moist enough to start with that they were still metabolizing and releasing humidity. (The CO2 can also exit and oxygen can slowly enter.)

Once you get the seeds below 20% RH, the metabolism slows way down. That's what makes dry seeds last longer than humid seeds: slower metabolism consumes less stored food and leaves the seeds viable longer.
Name: BetNC
Hendersonville, NC (Zone 7a)
Annuals Seed Starter Tomato Heads Hellebores Gardens in Buckets Plant and/or Seed Trader
Image
BetNC
Jan 6, 2016 7:03 PM CST
More info on my current set-up might help:

the container thingie of de-humidifying crystals is an electrically rechargable plastic seamless rectangle with a little window to see the color of the de-humidyfying crystals inside (blue-dry and red=wet). When it get less than a pure blue, I recharge it.

The humidity strips range from 0 to 100 in steps of 10. One humidity strip is on top of the rice in the bowl and another humidity strip is just on the bottom of the crisper. Both consistently read 20%. (To check that they were actually working and would change,I moved them to the refrigerator shelf next to the milk . .for a few hours. They changed, so I put them back in the crisper.)

I see the peanut butter jars and think they're cool. . . but I have a question: WHERE do you store them?? I see they're in a cardboard box, but WHERE?? Would my closet be okay? or my hope chest ( a humidifier strip says it's a bit higher than my crisper but still in the 20% spot)

And one last question, on another topic: I'd like to read / follow your blog but am technicologically UNsavvy about all thing blog-y. Does one subscribe to be able to read a blog?? How?? I'm all ears!

You prolly don't remember me, but I remember YOU! Big Grin You were responsible for my HUGE success when I first started indoor seed sowing: you had posted a humorous "How to Kill Your Seedlings" and I nigh-on memorized it. . . so I could do the exact opposite! And, just to be safe. . . I sowed TWICE what I needed. True to your humorous post, they all lived, just to spite me! Come time to transplant, I had to set up a SECOND gro-station for my seedlings' second month: in my kitchen, in front of my laundry alcove! Rolling on the floor laughing
!

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jan 6, 2016 7:51 PM CST
I'm very envious of your electrically rechargeable desiccant! Is there a product name or company name I can look up?

>> To check that they were actually working and would change ...

Science or engineering background? Clearly you know exactly what you;re doing!

>> WHERE do you store them?? I see they're in a cardboard box, but WHERE?? Would my closet be okay? or my hope chest ( a humidifier strip says it's a bit higher than my crisper but still in the 20% spot)

I wish I had a consistently cool spot, but decided not to use any part of my fridge or freezer because condensation wierds me out. Instead I just rely on the fairly constant temperature in my living room, and it never gets VERY hot there. Since I always seal the tubs as tightly as I can, I don't worry about varying humidity in the room air. They leak, but very slowly.

I think either spot you mentioned would be OK, wherever the temperature is more consistent and lower. Apparently "darkness" is the third variable in viability duration. Steady dryness is the most important variable, and steady, low temperatures after that.

I would lean toward the hope chest, since that might seal at least a little, and hold the dry air inside a little longer than the closet would. And the chest is smaller than the closet.

>> still in the 20% spot

If you have a desiccant and the seeds are sealed in with it, the room humidity doesn't matter much. If the seeds and desiccant are in an open bowl, then the driest spot you can find or create will let you regenerate the desiccant less often and keep the seeds more uniformly dry. All the desiccant can do is dry out the air that touches it. Your mission is to keep that dry air near the seeds, and not letting it diffuse away in an attempt to dry out your entire house.

Maybe put the bowl and desiccant into some large tub like a plastic sweater box or under-bed storage bin. Improve the seal as much as you can, maybe by laying thick plastic film over the top before you clamp the lid on over the plastic film. Just, if you get a really tight seal, keep an eye on your high-quality humidity cards (I'm envious of them, too) in case the overall humidity dips below 15% when the desiccant is freshest.

>> still in the 20% spot

Wow, your room air is ALWAYS that dry? The most that a desiccant can do for you is keep the seeds 5% drier than they would have been anyway (15% RH instead of 20% RH).

>> Stored seed's viable life span approximately doubles for every 10% reduction in seed eRH.

Kew's idea that you gain twice the lifetime for each 10% RH reduction (down to 15% which is optimum for long-term storage) hints that the "viable lifetime" difference between 20% and 15% RH might be (guessing) around the square root of two, so say seeds stored at 15% RH might last 40% longer than seeds at 20%.

I thought I remembered your name from the Piggy Swap, but I remember now that you skipped the usual "kill hundreds of seedlings" step by just doing the opposite of everything I had done for my first two years. That really made my year! it suggests that I might have found EVERY possible way to kill seeds, and in just two years!! (proudly, kind of)

Or you're just very good at it. I'm guessing a scientific or engineering degree or career.





Name: BetNC
Hendersonville, NC (Zone 7a)
Annuals Seed Starter Tomato Heads Hellebores Gardens in Buckets Plant and/or Seed Trader
Image
BetNC
Jan 7, 2016 10:13 AM CST
Made me look! :tongue_smilie:

The name is Eva-Dry Rechargeable Dehumidifier: the humidity strips go from 10 to 60% in steps of 10%. Both were bought online (inexpensively) from Amazon.com

reading alot of posts, links, etc leads me to conclude that VARIABILITY is the real danger, so my hope chest seems to be the ticket: dark, not fluctuating much humidity or temperature. I HOPE ( Rolling on the floor laughing ) that I correctly said a humidity strip IN the hope chest was still in the 20% spot, although higher than my crisper.

Somewhere, I read that mason jars (the type used for canning) were nigh-on air-proof. . . . . . . did not allow air exchange.
Since I don't happen to have any empty containers on hand and would have to go get them, I'm leaning toward them. . and asking my neighbor (who canned up to a few years ago) if she had a few w/lids that I could have.

So my new storage solution: 5 seeds in tiny ziplocks, all of one variety in a bigger ziplock, all of one type (tomato - indeterminant, determinant, dwarf; flower) in its own jar with a humidity strip, all jars in my hope chest with the electronicaly rechargeable dehumidifier. And next to the jars: a small notebook of catalogue / inventory of what /how much seed (of each variety) is in each jar.

one question: since seeds will die if dried TOO dry, do I need to put a small (I LIKE your idea of using an envelope!) bit of dessicant in each jar to MAINTAIN dryness. . . or wouldn't a dessicant so close dry the already dry seeds even more??

And, yes to a background in science. . . research in particular. Do I remember correctly that you have an engineering background?
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Jan 7, 2016 2:49 PM CST
Big Mason jars sound great. The rubber gasket is air-tight for months.

The downside is that once the Mason jar lid is sealed, NO humidity will be pulled out of the jar by the Eva-Dry Rechargeable Dehumidifier (looked it up - really cool!) The chest will still keep temps steady and maintain darkness.

You could rely on the hope chest seal being tight enough that you would not need to recharge the Eva-Dry very often. Then you would not need tightly-sealing Mason jars (the seal would be the chest itself). There has to be an open or slightly open path between the seeds and the Eva Dry, then a seal surrounding both seeds and Eva Dry.

Or, as you say, a little desiccant and an indicator card in each jar, and seal the lid tight. That makes the Eva Dry redundant.

To be very careful, you could use silica gel "wherever" until it absorbed a little humidity. Or, when you recharge it, don't get it totally dry. Then its maximum drying capacity is reduced and it would only be ABLE to pull RH down to 15-20 instead of 5-10%. Then you'/d be very safe putting some inside a sealed jar.

Or maybe a thick plastic bag containing the open seed jars and the Eva Dry could be put inside the hope chest and sealed as well as practical.

>> Do I remember correctly that you have an engineering background?

BS in biochemistry, worked around one year in tissue culture cancer research as a lab tech, then technical and engineering jobs. Right now, software engineer for airplane braking systems. Worked on anti-skid software for the Boeing 787. Fun stuff!

Corey

Name: BetNC
Hendersonville, NC (Zone 7a)
Annuals Seed Starter Tomato Heads Hellebores Gardens in Buckets Plant and/or Seed Trader
Image
BetNC
Jan 7, 2016 8:19 PM CST
Thumbs up

purslanegarden
Mar 17, 2016 7:55 AM CST

What about seeds inside medicine or pill bottles? I had heard about that method and began using it last year, but I can't say that I know how it will affect the seeds long term. I am probably just interested in the 3-5 year range since I would keep collecting new seeds every year, but just out of curiousity, would it also hold for a longer term?

Thanks!

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Mar 17, 2016 10:54 AM CST
purslanegarden said:
What about seeds inside medicine or pill bottles? ...


Those might seal a little tighter than Zip-Locs, because the jars have thicker walls and I think that screw-caps seal tighter than Zip-Loc "zippers".

I think that plenty of people never use desiccant, and can keep seeds for 5 years, but some of them are storing in paper or loosely-sealing plastic Zip-Locs. Those "breath" at least a little.

And seeds are living things, so they are still metabolizing: consuming oxygen and releasing CO2 and water.

Since the plastic container won't let humidity diffuse out through thin Zip-Loc walls and sloppy zippers, released humidity would build up over years until the inside of the jar was above 30% RH. Then the seeds would create and release water faster, the humidity might go above 50%, and then mold could occur.

The drier they are, the slower they metabolize.
The slower they metabolize, the less water they release.
So you need to get seeds very dry before sealing them tightly for 3-5 years.

Ideally, below 30% RH. My house gets almost that dry in winter with the heat on. (So I need desiccant.)
15% RH would be even better, but don't go much lower.

You could air-dry for a few weeks, but then if your house is not pretty dry, seal them with a little desiccant for another few weeks, to get them extra-dry. If you use a lot of fresh silica gel, use a humidity-indicating card so you can remove the silica gel if the RH gets below 15%.

I think that 3-5 years for most seeds is pretty easy if stored in paper or loose Zip-Locs.
Probably the same is true for tightly-sealing pill bottles IF you get the seeds drier than 30% RH before sealing them tightly.

But to assure 5 years of storage with high viability, you might want to KEEP their humidity in the range of 15% - 30% RH.

That would mean something like leaving the caps loose or ajar, and storing them all inside a large tub where you keep some silica gel or other desiccant in a paper envelope or bowl. The large tub would have to seal fairly well or you'll have to replace the desiccant every month or two. If the large tub seals VERY well, you want a humidity-indicator inside the tub so you don;t dry them down below 10-15% RH and possibly hurt the seeds by getting them TOO dry.

Add darkness and cool temperatures, and you would have the exact conditions that seed collections use for LONG-term storage.

http://www.kew.org/sites/default/files/04-Post%20harvest%20h...

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/millennium-seed-bank...

http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/2534/Drying-Seeds-wit...
Minnesota and Alaska (Zone 3a)
freezengirl
Apr 3, 2016 4:40 PM CST
Just a thought: Once you have your seeds in bags or what ever you choose and they are very dry-store the whole works in one of those luggage suction type bags. They come in all sorts of sizes and they are fabulous for shrinking everything by taking the air out. That would help collapse the packets for seeds, remove air (preserving silica) and if you want to open them you can simply reuse them again by taking the air out with a vacume hose again.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Apr 4, 2016 11:27 AM CST
Great idea, Freezengirl!

I've been saving some big bags that generic Cheerios came in, because they must prevent humidity from migrating through the plastic.

But putting a little desiccant into one of those "deflatable" bags and then sucking it flat would be even better for long-term storage.

Minnesota and Alaska (Zone 3a)
freezengirl
Apr 5, 2016 7:28 PM CST
Last time I made a cross country trip for a move I was told at the last minute we were going to take only one vehicle. Those vacume bags made it possible.
Wyoming (Zone 4a)
Pippi
Apr 11, 2016 10:39 PM CST
[quote="purslanegarden"]
What about seeds inside medicine or pill bottles? I had heard about that method and began using it last year, but I can't say that I know how it will affect the seeds long term. I am probably just interested in the 3-5 year range since I would keep collecting new seeds every year, but just out of curiousity, would it also hold for a longer term?

Thanks!

I have saved my prescription bottles over the years and that is what I use to save seeds in. The pill bottle are brownish which I think is a protector of seeds. I then have them stacked in my the bottom veggie drawer. Luckily I have 2---1 for seeds the other for veggies. Anyway I don't collect any seeds like I used to. Mainly my iris and daylily crosses. They will remain viable for 3 years or more. I have tested the daylily seeds that were 3 years old and they sprouted fine with thee Deno method. Seeds have a pretty long shelf life or else our planet would be void of plants. The secret is to keep them dry.

I slip a paper inside the bottle of the name and the year harvested.

[Last edited by Pippi - Apr 11, 2016 10:40 PM (+)]
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