Tag Archives: Seed Saving

Proper Seed Storage: 3 Key Steps

This time of year, there’s not much work to do in the garden. We’re mostly looking ahead to next spring, planning garden rotations, new beds, and selecting varieties we’d like to grow next season. One chore that may still need to be taken care of is seed storage. Properly storing seeds will ensure they remain viable for a long time. There are three main things to consider when storing your seeds this winter, whether they’re leftover packets or seeds you saved from your garden. 

Keep them cool.

Cooler temperatures help keep seeds in dormancy. The Svalbard Global Seed Storage Vault, which hopes to be the “ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply,” stores seeds at about -0.4°F or -18ºC to keep the seeds viable for long periods. 

While that isn’t necessary or even possible for most home gardeners, generally, you want to keep your seeds as cool as possible. Storing seeds below 40°F is optimal, but between 50° and 60° will work just fine. Get creative and think about what areas in your home always remain cool, whether it’s your basement or a particular cupboard, closet.

It’s important to remember that freezing and thawing or any significant temperature changes can mimic seasonal changes and cause seeds to deteriorate. Freezers can be a great place to store seeds, but if you frequently lose power during the winter, it may be better to put your seeds in a cool cabinet than into the freezer to avoid significant temperature fluctuations.

Keep them dry.

Moisture also signals seeds to germinate. If you’re saving seeds, make sure they’re fully dry before you package them. Larger seeds should easily snap in half and not bend. Smaller seeds should shatter under pressure. 

Use airtight containers such as mason jars to store seeds. It’s also a good idea to avoid storing seeds in the refrigerator or unheated garages and sheds due to the fluctuating moisture and temperature levels. 

Another option is to add silica gel packets or some dry rice to your jars or containers. These will help absorb any excess moisture. While this isn’t strictly necessary, it can provide a little extra protection.

Keep them in the dark.

Sunlight is detrimental to the long-term viability of seeds. It can signal to seeds that it’s time to sprout and cause the seeds to break down. You can place jars or containers of seeds in a dark cabinet or a larger solid color tote or container. 

A few other things to consider:

  • Label everything! Label your containers with the date seeds were stored and when you’ve done germination tests. 
  • Especially when storing grain seed, if you see signs of pest activity such as moths or weevils, place it in an airtight container in the freezer for two days to kill them.
  • Organize your seeds and make a list of what you have to avoid over-ordering this winter.

Properly storing your seeds can save you time and frustration. Follow these tips to ensure your seeds stay viable for as long as possible. Check out a few more of our seed-related posts below:

6 Easy Steps to Saving Pumpkin Seeds

Not everyone is ready for fall, but for many gardeners, it’s officially pumpkin harvest season! Native Americans were the first people to save pumpkins seeds. They domesticated them over 9,000 years ago! They created the sweet, large pumpkins we’re familiar with today through their years of breeding and selection. 

Saving seed from your pumpkins is a great place to start if you’re new to seed saving or want to involve the kids. Their large seeds make them easy to work with. 

  1. Select a pumpkin.


    Pumpkins, winter squash, and other members of the cucurbit family cross readily. If the pumpkin was grown near other cucurbits, you might end up with fruits that look and taste entirely different next year! 

    This may be a fun experiment if you’re just interested in growing pumpkins for decor. However, if you’re growing pumpkins for eating like Winter Luxury, you may want to ensure that they weren’t crossed. Cucurbit crosses sometimes end up being bitter or even non-edible. 

    Check out our growing guide for more information on isolation.

    You also want to select a pumpkin that is fully ripe so that the seeds are fully mature. The pumpkin should have firm skin, and the vines should be dying back when you harvest.

  2. Scoop out the seeds.


    Slice your pumpkin in whatever was you’re planning to use it, whether that be for a jack o’ lantern or in halves or quarters for baking. Then scoop out the seeds. A large metal spoon can be helpful for this.

  3. Clean them. 


    Clean the seeds as best you can. Separate and compost any fleshy parts clinging to the seeds. Then give them a good rinse in a colander.
     
  4. Ferment them.


    Several types of seeds should be fermented before drying and storage. These include tomatoes, cucumbers, summer and winter squashes, and pumpkins. Some people think that this step is unnecessary; however, we recommend it for a couple of reasons. 

    Fermentation removes any bits of flesh you may have missed as well as the slimy coating on seeds. This will ensure better germination. Second, fermenting the seeds kills and soil-borne diseases or fungus that may be on them. This will help keep your garden and the gardens of anyone you share seeds with healthy.

    Place your pumpkin seeds in a jar and cover them with clean water. Cover loosely with a lid or just a towel. Make sure air can escape. Let them sit for 3 to 4 days, stirring them once a day. Add a bit more water if it begins to dry out.

    It’s okay if the mixture smells bad or you notice some mold growing on top. After three days, add more water and stir the mixture again. The viable seeds will sink while the pulp and bad seeds will float, and you can pour them off the top. Drain and rinse your viable seeds.

  5. Dry them.


    Lay the seeds on a towel to dry. Let them dry until they’re completely dry. This may take 5 to 7 days. If you store them before they’re fully dry they’ll mold and rot.

  6. Store them. 


    Store seeds in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Pumpkin seeds will remain viable for four years or more under the right conditions. 

    Learn how to do a germination test here.

Are you saving seeds this year? Tag us on Facebook or use the hashtag #southernexposureseed on Instagram to show us your projects.

6 Easy Steps to Save Seed Potatoes

If you’re starting to save some of your own seed this year, you might want to give potatoes a try! While they do take a bit of storage space, they’re pretty easy to save. Saving seed potatoes can also save you a lot of money on next year’s garden, especially if you generally rely on having potatoes shipped to you.

What About Disease?

Many people don’t save seed potatoes because of the fear of disease. Commercial producers almost exclusively rely on USDA-certified seed potatoes. However, on a home scale, you can easily mitigate the risk of diseases. Always rotate your potatoes and other members of the Solanacea or nightshade family (peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, tomatillos, and potatoes). Keep your potatoes well weeded and mulched and grow them in rich, well-draining soil. 

Selecting Seed Potatoes

While you can harvest potatoes early in the season for eating, you should harvest storage seed potatoes should when the plant dies back. The foliage dying back makes the potatoes go into dormancy. This will help them keep longer. Make sure you harvest them before you get any hard frosts.

When selecting individual potatoes to store, you want to focus on selecting healthy potatoes that are free from any signs of disease, blemishes, or bruises.

Note that some varieties store better than others, so if you struggled in the past you might want to try a variety like Yukon Gold that keeps well.

Curing 

Potatoes are one of those staple crops like winter squash that keep better when they’ve been cured. Take your freshly harvested potatoes and gently brush any loose dirt off. Don’t wash them! Lay them on newspaper in a single layer somewhere cool, dark, and well-ventilated for 10 to 14 days.

After your potatoes are cured they’ll have thicker skins, a little less moisture, and be ready to store! 

Proper Storage

Ideally, you should store you potatoes somewhere dark where temperatures remain between 35° and 40°F though they will still keep for several months at temperatures up to 50°F. Warmer temperatures or large fluctuations can cause potatoes to break dormancy and sprout early. 

Before packing your potatoes up, go through them one more time and remove any with damage. Gently rub off any large clumps of dirt you come across. Pack your potatoes in ventilated containers. Bushel baskets, root-storage bins, and perforated cardboard boxes work well for this. Cover your containers with cardboard or newspaper to keep out any light.

Don’t store potatoes with onions and fruit, which give off ethylene gas and can cause potatoes to sprout early.

Check On Your Potatoes

Check on your potatoes every couple of weeks. You want to remove any starting to rot or mold as soon as possible, so it doesn’t spread to the others. 

Get Ready to Plant

In the spring, you can plant any potatoes that have sprouted. It’s okay if they’re a bit wrinkly, but you don’t want to use any that appear to be rotting or unhealthy. To plant, cut potatoes into pieces no smaller than an egg with no fewer than two eyes.

Check out our Potato Growing Guide for further planting instructions.