Collecting and storing seed is economical and an excellent way to continue the propagation of a hard-to-find plant. Seed storage requires cool temperatures, low humidity, and dim to no light. How long do seeds last? Every seed is different so the exact length of time for storing seeds will vary, however, if done properly most will last at least a season. Get the scoop on how to keep seeds to ensure you have a good supply of high quality seed every season.
Harvesting Seeds for Seed Storage
Seed pods or dried flower heads can be harvested by drying in an open paper bag. When the seeds have dried sufficiently, shake the bag and the seed will spill out of the pod or off the head. Remove the non-seed material and store. Scoop the vegetable seeds out of the vegetable and rinse to remove the pulp or meat. Place the seeds on a paper towel until they are dry.
How to Store Seeds
Successful seed storage starts with good seed; it isn't worth your time to store seed that isn't viable or is of poor quality. Always purchase your primary plants or seed from a reputable nursery or supplier. Don't save seed from plants that were hybrids as they are inferior to the parents and may not come true from seed. Learning how to store seeds helps make you a sustainable gardener. The first tip is in harvesting. Select healthy mature fruit and vegetables from which to collect seed. Collect seed pods when they are mature and dry but just before they open. Dry your seeds completely before packaging them. The drier seeds are, the longer they will store. Storing seeds that are less than 8 percent moisture provides the optimum long term seed storage. You can dry seeds or seed pods in the oven on a cookie sheet as long as the temperature is less than 100 F. (38 C.). Keep seeds in a closed container such as a sealed mason jar. Place a cheesecloth bag of dry powdered milk at the bottom of the jar and put the jar in the refrigerator or freezer for long term seed storage. Label the contents clearly and date it as well. For seeds that will be stored for only a season, place the container in a cool, dark location.
Seed Storage Viability
Properly stored seed will last up to a year. Some seeds can last for three to four years, such as:
Long-lived seeds include:
The seeds to use the quickest are:
It's always best to use seed as quickly as possible for fastest germination and growth.
Gardening tips, videos, info and more delivered right to your inbox!
Sign up for the Gardening Know How newsletter today and receive a free download of our most popular eBook "How to Grow Delicious Tomatoes."
Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.