Seeds forum: Seed storage

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Name: Cole
Pittsboro, North Carolina (Zone 7b)
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colelwol
Aug 26, 2017 7:23 PM CST
Anyone know a good method for long term seed storage that is very cheap?
Name: Mike Dunton
Liberal, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Plant Database Moderator Tomato Heads Farmer Organic Gardener Composter Seed Starter
Vegetable Grower Herbs Vermiculture Seller of Garden Stuff Region: Pacific Northwest Garden Photography
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MikeD
Sep 4, 2017 11:08 AM CST
There are way too many variables surrounding your question for anyone to give a meaningful answer. For example, the biology of the seeds you are interested in, what is the length you are thinking of for "long term," what does "cheap" mean, etc. I can tell you, there really is no magic solution for stashing away a seed collection and hoping it all germinates in 5, 10, or 20 years.

Every seed will eventually lose its viability, that is their ability to germinate and grow. There are many factors that can contribute to this . . . genetic design, environmental storage conditions, etc.

The best way to look at it is that seeds are living organisms. They consist of a fertilized cell, a stored food source to get them going before they can 'take their first breath' (create their own food), and a life force. If they are stored properly, most can last for years. This does also depend on the seed type. Some species, like parsnips, are fragile and tend to lose viability after a year or two. Others, like the weedy wild amaranth species we have here in Oregon called 'Redroot Pigweed', can remain viable in the soil for decades.

The best thing that you can do for your seed is to store them in an airtight, not "airless", container, in a cold, dark place. Refrigerators are excellent. The worst conditions for seeds are fluctuating levels of temperature and humidity. These variations "wake up" the seed, causing it to consume its precious food reserve. This causes the seeds to become weak or lose viability altogether . . . they just don't have enough food remaining to grow into a plant.

Here is a link to a good document that describes an easy method for storing extra seed for future plantings. It is in PDF file format:

http://www.webgrower.com/infor...

And a couple of others that may be of interest to you:

http://www.webgrower.com/infor...
http://www.saveseeds.org/libra...

I also want to point out that even seed stored by the professionals at places like the Seed Savers Exchange and the National Seed Storage Lab, and all of their expensive gear and facilities, still need to regularly plant and save fresh seed to keep the variety viable.

I hope that this helps.

Best Regards,

Mike
Founder and the man of many hats at the Victory Seed Company

Name: Cole
Pittsboro, North Carolina (Zone 7b)
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colelwol
Sep 4, 2017 2:49 PM CST
MikeD said:There are way too many variables surrounding your question for anyone to give a meaningful answer. For example, the biology of the seeds you are interested in, what is the length you are thinking of for "long term," what does "cheap" mean, etc. I can tell you, there really is no magic solution for stashing away a seed collection and hoping it all germinates in 5, 10, or 20 years.

Every seed will eventually lose its viability, that is their ability to germinate and grow. There are many factors that can contribute to this . . . genetic design, environmental storage conditions, etc.

The best way to look at it is that seeds are living organisms. They consist of a fertilized cell, a stored food source to get them going before they can 'take their first breath' (create their own food), and a life force. If they are stored properly, most can last for years. This does also depend on the seed type. Some species, like parsnips, are fragile and tend to lose viability after a year or two. Others, like the weedy wild amaranth species we have here in Oregon called 'Redroot Pigweed', can remain viable in the soil for decades.

The best thing that you can do for your seed is to store them in an airtight, not "airless", container, in a cold, dark place. Refrigerators are excellent. The worst conditions for seeds are fluctuating levels of temperature and humidity. These variations "wake up" the seed, causing it to consume its precious food reserve. This causes the seeds to become weak or lose viability altogether . . . they just don't have enough food remaining to grow into a plant.

Here is a link to a good document that describes an easy method for storing extra seed for future plantings. It is in PDF file format:

http://www.webgrower.com/infor...

And a couple of others that may be of interest to you:

http://www.webgrower.com/infor...
http://www.saveseeds.org/libra...

I also want to point out that even seed stored by the professionals at places like the Seed Savers Exchange and the National Seed Storage Lab, and all of their expensive gear and facilities, still need to regularly plant and save fresh seed to keep the variety viable.

I hope that this helps.

Best Regards,

Mike






Thank you mike this is very valuable information I will research these documents.
North Central TX (Zone 8a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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tx_flower_child
Sep 10, 2017 9:04 PM CST
@MikeD --

Great info but there's one thing I can't quite picture. What's the difference between 'airtight' and 'airless'?

Maybe this might not matter much to the average home gardener. Sounds like it would require special equipment??
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
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ZenMan
Oct 18, 2017 4:16 PM CST
tx_flower_child said:...but there's one thing I can't quite picture. What's the difference between 'airtight' and 'airless'? Maybe this might not matter much to the average home gardener. Sounds like it would require special equipment??

Not really. A mason jar with a metal lid is reasonably airtight -- meaning that air cannot enter or leave the jar. On the other hand, a Ziploc bag is reasonably airless (doesn't contain much air if flat), but gases (oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor) can diffuse through the thin plastic.
Thumb of 2017-10-18/ZenMan/7de26d
It might be a good idea to store the Ziploc bags in a Mason jar, to minimize the amount of gaseous diffusion through the thin plastic. And store the Mason jar in the refrigerator. No "special equipment" required.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.

North Central TX (Zone 8a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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tx_flower_child
Oct 18, 2017 5:52 PM CST
ZenMan said:
It might be a good idea to store the Ziploc bags in a Mason jar, to minimize the amount of gaseous diffusion through the thin plastic. And store the Mason jar in the refrigerator. No "special equipment" required.



So . . . why bother with the Ziplock or any other plastic bag? Sounds like a 'belt and suspenders' solution. (Yes, I realize that this wouldn't work for storing more than one type of seed in a jar.)

What about using paper packets, like those often used for coins, and placing them in the Mason jar? Or using the original package if unopened or if enough of it remains useable?

EDITED:
Read one of the links provided by Mike (see above) which talks about using desiccants, although not homemade ones. So maybe the section below = 'never mind'.

Also, I've read that one should use a desiccant in the Mason jar. This could be a commercial version or homemade using either rice or powdered milk. Any thoughts on this aside from said Mason jar is starting to get crowded?

Appreciate any advice. Thanks.
[Last edited by tx_flower_child - Oct 18, 2017 6:06 PM (+)]
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
Annuals Keeper of Poultry Enjoys or suffers cold winters Bee Lover Dragonflies Garden Photography
Hybridizer Region: United States of America Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 2
ZenMan
Oct 18, 2017 11:02 PM CST
tx_flower_child said:So . . . why bother with the Ziplock or any other plastic bag? Sounds like a 'belt and suspenders' solution. (Yes, I realize that this wouldn't work for storing more than one type of seed in a jar.)

I have dozens of Ziploc bags with different strains of zinnias in each one. I write the strain info on a 3x5 card that goes in the Ziploc along with the seeds. I plant the seeds and reuse the Zliploc bags, adding a new 3x5 card with info for the new seed contents. So no "belt and suspenders" in my zinnia project.
tx_flower_child said:What about using paper packets, like those often used for coins, and placing them in the Mason jar? Or using the original package if unopened or if enough of it remains useable?
Also, I've read that one should use a desiccant in the Mason jar. This could be a commercial version or homemade using either rice or powdered milk. Any thoughts on this aside from said Mason jar is starting to get crowded?
I like to see inside the packet, so for me that eliminates the paper packet approach. You could use rice as a dessicant -- using dry rice seeds as a desiccant. Or your seeds themselves could be dry, and act as their own desiccant. That is the way the commercial seed companies do it. You don't get desiccant in your store-bought seed packets. I do save green seeds, which have moisture content when I save them, but I dry them before packaging them. Zinnia seeds are rather big, almost comparable to rice seeds. And my home hybridized zinnia seeds are considerably bigger than commercial zinnia seeds. Click the pics for bigger views.
Thumb of 2017-10-19/ZenMan/bf6df8
Zinnia
Posted by ZenMan
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That graph paper is ruled at 10 per inch, to give a quantitative idea about the seed sizes. Desiccant in a Mason jar is a good idea for a lot of seed storage applications. I have used it on occasions. But I much prefer Ziploc bags to paper packets. And Ziplocs are more widely available.

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Dec 12, 2017 3:06 PM CST
On the few occasions I really try to save, other than simply putting them in the freezer, I double bag them, get as much air out as possible and make sure the outer bag is true quality freezer bag and put them where they will be least disturbed.

I have rebagged seeds in the dead of winter, dry air, out in the unheated porch to make sure the air has little moisture in it but the years I really tried to save seeds are few, although, one year I discarded my years old corn seed, some seven-eight years old, by heavily seeding it in the garden that next spring and as usual, when I thought it would be sparse, it came up very thick.
The years that followed with fresh seed were pathetic on the whole.

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