How to store seeds properly

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:15 pm

Do you have as much fun growing your own plants from seed? Taking the shortcut and buying robust young plants also offers many advantages, but it’s always a great experience to marvel at the different colors and shapes of the seeds and watch them germinate. In order to preserve your pleasure for a long time, the correct storage of the valuable seeds is a must. This is not complicated at all and you probably already have everything you need for this in the house.

How to store seeds properly
Seeds for legumes can be well stored in jars because of the size.

The most important basic rules

The goal of proper storage is to keep seeds germinating for as long as possible. A packet of hundreds of small lettuce, radish or onion seeds can last quite a long time – so it would be a shame if you can’t sow them the very next year. A lot can happen to seeds if they are stored incorrectly: they attract moisture and, in the worst case, become moldy or possibly infested with food moths or other pests. If it is stored in too warm or light a place, the germination capacity decreases rapidly.

How to store seeds properly

The fact that the correct storage of seeds is almost a science in its own right can be seen from the amount of effort that goes into seed storage worldwide. The world’s largest seed database is located in Norway on Spitsbergen. There, in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, billions of vacuumed seeds of crops are stored in deep sub-zero temperatures so that they can be re-bred as needed. Of course, you don’t have to go that far; we’ll be fine with storage for a few years, not decades!

We’ll take a detailed look at what viable options are available to us in a moment. But regardless of what exactly your personal seed storage should look like, there are a few important basic rules for proper storage:

  • Seeds must be dry and sound.
  • This is especially true for seeds you have collected yourself. Make sure the seeds are free of pests and really properly dried before you store them. For example, I didn’t see until later with my beans that there was probably already a pest in there. This little bug was crawling around in the baggie and all the beans were eaten.
  • Humidity must be low.
  • Bathrooms, kitchens, or basement laundry rooms, as well as greenhouses or garden sheds, are not suitable places to store seeds.
  • Seeds must be stored in the dark.
  • Make sure that no light gets to your seeds, as UV radiation affects germination.
  • Seeds should be stored in a cool place.
  • Heat also has a negative effect on germination. Therefore, a dry, cool room is ideal. Since not every home has a suitable place where the temperature is only 10 degrees, you can choose the best possible room. Even in warmer living rooms there are cooler corners.
  • Seeds should be stored at a constant temperature.
  • Even more important than the exact temperature is a consistent temperature. Make sure your seeds are not exposed to large temperature fluctuations. For example, in a dry attic, it can get very cold in the winter and very warm in the summer.
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A certain order in your seed collection helps to keep track. Depending on the quantity, very different sorts can make sense. I have chosen categories like “leafy vegetables” (mainly salads), “root vegetables” (carrots, beet, radishes) or “fruiting vegetables” (tomatoes, pumpkins). You don’t have to be biologically correct at all. It is best to think about an order that makes it as easy as possible for you personally to find them again. Maybe you like to sort your vegetable seeds by shape: round (e.g. radishes, beet and tomatoes), oblong (cucumbers and eggplants) and pointed (carrots and chilies)? Or by color: red, orange and green? Or classically by alphabet? As you can see, there are many good options.

Four variants for safe storage

Variant 1: A carton or cardboard box

Maybe you bought one of our Bloomify seed boxes. These are super suitable to store the small seed bags well closed in it. If you have more seeds to store, it will be tight at some point.

I also store my seeds in a cardboard box with a lid. I leave the seeds either in the seed bags or in envelopes, which conveniently fit exactly into the box. In the envelopes I put self-collected seeds, but also several small seed bags together (eg, all lettuces together in one envelope). All in all, everything is again divided into different categories.

With this variant, the seeds must be very dry in any case before you fill them into the envelopes, because the paper absorbs the moisture and could “pass on” to other seeds. Also, a problem: small insects can get in and cardboard is not mouse-proof either.

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I decided to do it anyway and store the box in a cooler corner of the living room on the bookshelf. I put two sachets of silica gel between the envelopes. They’re those little white bags with the “Do not eat” label that trap moisture. I also check periodically to make sure everything is still okay. I accept the possible shortened germination period due to the temperature and try to store only as much seed as I can use within 1 or 2 years.

Variant 2: Screw jars

If you want to store your seeds for a longer period of time or if you have larger quantities to store, then screw jars are a good option. Transparent jars must then of course be additionally stored in a box or in a cabinet to protect them from light. The advantage of screw jars is that you can store the seeds airtight. Thus, no moisture can penetrate from the outside and also insects and mice have no chance. But: no moisture can escape either. The seeds must be 100% dry before you close the jars, otherwise there is a risk of mold.

Variant 3: Boxes made of wood or metal

Depending on the size, wooden or metal boxes can be used to store seed bags or jars that are protected from light. Wood, as a natural material, is breathable and, like cardboard, should only be used for storage in a dry place. Also pests could gnaw or drill through the wood.

Metal is more robust. Depending on the design of the box, it can also be airtight. In this case, make sure that your seeds are really dry before you close the box! Cheap variants are, for example, lunch boxes, which are not so large, but well stackable.

Variant 4: What else is lying around…

Small bags for storage are practical and space-saving, but they are not particularly robust and can quickly tear during a little garden action. That’s when you need a quick replacement that won’t cost you much.

As already mentioned in variant 1, envelopes are a great thing. They are also suitable for larger seeds. With very fine seeds you have to be careful that they do not trickle through small gaps in the corners of the envelope.

If you’re a coffee fan, you may have paper coffee filters in the kitchen. These are perfect for storing small and medium sized seeds. Fold them over at the top and secure the resulting flap with some tape.

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You can also use matchboxes to store seeds. Very fine seeds may get caught in the corners, but medium-sized seeds will be fine there.

Really large seeds, for example pumpkin seeds or some beans, need a little more space. All legumes live in a separate box for me, by the way, because they just got a little too thick. You can store them well in jars, but also in smaller wooden boxes in which cheese like Camembert or similar is sold.

Last but not least, of course, there are film cans. The black ones, appropriately enough, have the property of being one hundred percent lightproof. In addition, the seeds in them are protected from moisture. I like to use the cans to collect seeds or to fill as many seeds from the bags as I want to sow. That way I don’t have to take paper bags into the wet garden. Small tip: in most drugstores there is still a table to hand in photo orders, taking the films out of the film cans beforehand. For the cans, there’s a small bin you can fish some out of – they’d end up in the trash anyway.

I’m sure there are plenty of other great storage ideas. As long as you follow the basic rules, your seeds should be fine!

Author

  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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