Seeds Are Amazing
Dr. Carol Baskin of the University of Kentucky tells her students that “a seed is a baby plant, in a box with its lunch”. Seeds have everything they need to get started, just waiting for the right amount of moisture, light, and warmth to break their dormancy.
Most of us have seeds that for whatever reason, we never got around to starting or we want to get a jump on buying next season’s seeds. So, what can we do? If seeds need warmth, moisture, and light to sprout, it makes sense that if we deny them what’s needed to germinate, we can extend their life and viability. The key is cool, dry, and dark.
Most Cooperative Extension sites recommend glass containers (Mason jars) with labeled seed envelopes inside and stored in the refrigerator. Sealed storage bags and plastic containers with snap-on lids also work for this purpose.
It’s important to make sure that seeds are dry before they are stored. (Note-some seeds do need cold moisture when they are stored. Paw paw seeds come to mind. If they are allowed to dry out, germination rates decrease significantly.) Including a desiccant pack for dry seed storage will remove any unwanted moisture during storage. A recommended storage temperature of between 32° and 41°F is ideal with relative humidity adding up to <100, so the back of your refrigerator can be a good place to store seeds.
For long term seed storage, the freezer is an option but it is even more important for the seeds to be dry before they go in. Adding a desiccant pack or two for a couple of days before you store will remove moisture and storing with a pack will absorb any during storage. When taking seeds out, letting the storage container come to room temperature before opening helps to reduce the chance of condensation forming.
Best Seed Storing Practices:
- Use an airtight container
- Desiccant packet dramatically increase storage life
- Storing between 32° and 41°F is ideal
- For long-term storage freeze seeds and add the desiccant packet a couple of days before placing in the freezer.
- Allow airtight container to come to room temperature before opening
Rhonda Graves is a guest contributor and a member of The Gardener’s Workshop Warehouse crew.
Meet Rhonda: A native of Hampton, Rhonda has exercised her creative abilities in a variety of ways since graduating with a B.A. in history from Mary Washington College. After donning colonial garb to be an apprentice bookbinder at Colonial Williamsburg, she worked in book restoration in Atlanta. Along the way, she has tried her hand at stained glass and become an amateur potter. In 2004, she returned to Hampton to be close to family and the ocean. Most recently, she has turned her creative attentions to the natural world, becoming a Hampton Extension Master Gardener in 2009, Peninsula Tree Steward in 2011, and Master Naturalist in 2014. And, she says, she still has lots to learn.