Storing seeds can be very helpful. You can buy seeds in bulk and store them for future years, getting a better price on a larger quantity than you need for one season. Or perhaps your growing and sowing plans have changed and you just ended up with too many seeds.
You may also want to save seeds from your crops and vegetables, to develop your own varieties that produce the qualities you want in your farm products. You can cross-breed plants to develop varieties unique to your garden, or just enhance your production by saving seed from the most productive plants or plants with other qualities you desire.
Plus, ensuring that you have fresh seed that will germinate well is key to your success. With these tips, you’ll be sure to have successful crop plantings.
Store Seeds For Next Year
Seeds store well at room temperature, as long as the humidity isn’t extremely high, without loss of germination, for one year. You could also store them in a moisture-proof container in the refrigerator or freezer without doing anything else to them.
Seed Storage Conditions
To protect germination, seeds should be stored at low moisture and low temperature. This is the opposite of the conditions needed to germinate seeds: water, oxygen, and sufficient temperature. Ideal seed storage conditions are below 5 °C and about 8 percent moisture in the seed itself.
Dehydrating Seed to Store
One way to improve the length of seed storage is to dry it out. Place seed heads in paper bags (not plastic) and hang to dry in a cool, dry place. For larger seeds like squash, peas and beans, spread the seed or seedpods on trays or place in boxes lined with paper. Once the pod is dry, shake or strain the seeds to separate them from the pods After drying, store in moisture-proof containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Seed that is dehydrated this way will store for up to ten years.
The Risk of Hard Seed
Dry seed is good, but if you bring the moisture content too low, you will create what is known as “hard seed.” Hard seed will germinate poorly because it resists absorbing moisture. It will take time for hard seed to absorb enough moisture to germinate, so it will be slow to sprout. If the moisture in the seed gets below 8 percent, hard seed may result. Beans and peas are particularly prone to this as they require more moisture to germinate than other seeds. If you have hard seed, you can expose it to moisture for several weeks before planting to improve its germination.
Test for Germination
You can test seeds for germination rates by placing ten seeds on a damp paper towel. Keep them damp and warm. The number of seeds that sprout is your germination rate: if 5 seeds sprout, that is a germination rate of 50 percent. A germination rate of 50 percent is about the minimum you want – below that and you might not want to plant that seed at all.
Saving Seed From Your Crops
Saving seed from your own crops can be an easy and very satisfying way to save money. Besides saving money, saving seed allows you to select the plants that have the best qualities: the biggest, yummiest tomatoes, the best producing cucumbers, or the most fragrant herbs. You can also breed your own varieties of plants, customizing qualities to your needs or demands.
How to Grow Plants to Save Seed
You may want to dedicate some row space just to plants grown for the purpose of saving seed. You need to grow an open-pollinated variety of plant so that they will cross-pollinate. You can’t use any hybrid to save seed. Their seed does not breed true and you will end up with inferior vegetables.
For biennial plants, like carrots and brassicas, you will need to collect seed during the second year of growth. The plant does not produce seed until the second year. Make sure that the seed is ready before harvest: the seed color should change to dark brown or black and the seed capsule changes. For each variety you may want to check the signs of the seeds being ready for harvest.
How to Collect and Dry Seed
Collect seed and label it immediately. Place seed heads in paper bags (not plastic) and hang to dry in a cool, dry place. For larger seeds like squash, peas and beans, spread the seed or seedpods on trays or place in boxes lined with paper. Once the pod is dry, shake or strain the seeds to separate them from the pods. You will also want to remove any misshapen seeds and any other debris once the seeds are dry.