Finally neatening up my messy seeds. How to save the "winter" seeds
for next year? Radish, bokchoy,
spinach, lettuce, sugar peas, carrots, etc.
Is there any REAL evidence -- not anecdotal -- that storing in the
freezer will preserve viability better than refrigerator or just shelf
storage, esp. during warmish summer and mild autumn.
This is mild Mediterranean climate - So. Calif coastal.
I want to cut down wasting money on seeds, since I often don't use up
a whole packet due to lack of space, and would like to keep for later
Consider a seed that has a lifespan of about 2 years at 50 degrees fahrenheit,
50% relative humidity. By dropping the temperature 10 degrees or by decreasing
the relative humidity 10%, you'll double the storage life of the seed.
Likewise, increasing the temp 10 degrees or increasing the relative humidity
10% will halve the lifespan of the seed in storage.
This is for conventional seeds, like most temperate zone crops. There are some
exceptions to this, notably maples and most tropical seeds, but as a rule
of thumb, the 50-50 rule works quite well for guesstimation purposes.
There are some limits... putting a very wet seed into the freezer will probably
kill it as ice crystals form and disrupt the embryo. Drying a seed too far
often leads to "hard seededness", where the seed won't absorb water when
you try to rehydrate -- it's still alive, just in very deep dormancy due to
the seedcoat issues.
If you'd like to explore this topic more fully, most beginning seed science
textbooks do a pretty good job of it; this has been known for awhile, so even a
20 year old text gotten from some place like abe.com is likely to have a
Or search AGRICOLA for key words like "seed longevity" and "long term storage".
Me, I'd put the paper packets in a mason jar with a couple of packets of silica
gel and stuff them in the back of the refrigerator, next to the jar of pickled
In my experinece it's a false economy to save vegetable seeds; buy
only as much as you can use (share with a fellow gardener if you can).
There is no economy in planting old seeds that don't germinate. By
the time you realize they are useless you've lost the growing season.
Many years ago (~1970) I worked for a company that produced a product
called "Grow Sticks", wooden sticks similar to a tongue depressor with
a hole at the pointed end that contained a few veggie seeds held in
with water soluable wax. There were single pant kits, multiple plant
kits, and large kits that contained a variety of Grow Sticks with a
bag of fertilized planting medium. The darn things actually worked. I
was the one who built and maintained the automated machinary that put
the seeds and wax into the sticks. The company kept the seeds in a
large walk-in climate controlled humidor, but at the end of the
production cycle they discarded all unused seeds, because if they sold
seeds that didn't germinate they'd very quickly be out of business. I
worked there about six months building and grooming the machinery and
moved on to other projects but the company was in business for about
ten years and made a lot of money selling Grow Sticks at all the
retail stores across the US and probably elsewhere. I have a fairly
large garden (50'X50') but I don't save vegetable seeds... I've
suffered too many disappointments, vegetable seeds are cheap. In fact
I planted some left over mammoth sunflower seeds I had saved from last
year and after two weeks none germinated. I rushed out and bought a
new packet, a big $1.49, and after six days they began to stick their
heads up, I'm hoping that there are enough days left this season for
them to mature even though they are only used to feed birds. Don't be
a cheapo bastard, buy new seeds each year.
some cheapo bastards are planting a lot of seeds. if i'd
run out and bought seeds for each planting this year i'd be
set back about $150 (even if they were available locally --
many weren't). as it turned out my worst germination this
year has been with some of the store bought seeds.
Most of my tomato plants this year are from seeds packed for and dated
2003. I have no idea if I'll get any of the usual NJ plagues between
now and harvest, but other than that worry, it is the most lush and
healthy bunch of tomato plants I have ever grown.
I did not start them in seed pots, either. I direct sow once the
ground warms up.
I grow my sunflowers from seeds I cull from what I put out in the bird
I have a large collection of seeds I have acquired and saved from
favorite plants. I add to it each year and rotate out/plant a lot of
them, of course, but I tend to buy at sales towards the end of the
season or whenever I see a bargain.
On Mon, 02 Jul 2012 19:46:12 -0400, Brooklyn1 <Gravesend1> wrote:
But if you store seeds correctly, they'll germinate for many years. I've
grown sunflowers from 20 year old seeds, same germination percent as
marked on the package.
More likely they ditched them because they would have had to pay to have the
seed germination tests redone so they could be sold the following year.
Germ testing needs to be done within 5 months of the time the seeds are
shipped for sale, per FSA. At $100 or so per lot to be tested, that adds
up quickly -- it's cheaper to buy fresh seed in most instances.
And some plants such as pumpkins grow best from seed several years old.
(although that applies to the plants Australians called pumpkins - I have no
idea if that also applies to the plants that USians call pumpkins)
And for those of us who want to have seeds acclimatised to our locales,
there is a need to both save needs and to use non-hybrids.
***Kay, I see my reply didn't get in.
I was asking, per your +10, -10 rule, whether keeping jar in the
freezer would be even better than frig. Can't remember what else I
wrote, but could you
speak to that point?
THEY FOUND MY PARTICLE!!!! (they think...)
Freezing temp is where it starts getting tricky. Harrington's rule for
orthodox seeds is that if the sum of the temperature and relative humidity
is below 100, then you've got adequate storage. But consider a freezer
running at 20 degrees F and a seed with a relative humidity of 80% --
that's wet enough that if the freezer goes through a few freeze-thaw
cycles (like most modern freezers), you're in the range that you could
get ice crystals disrupting embryos. If you're willing to chuck several good
sized packets of just out of the drying oven silica gel in with the seeds,
chances are you'll be fine, and probably better off (by several year's
storage) than standard refrigerator storage -- except maybe with large
seeded beans, like kidney beans or limas. Those tend to go hard-seeded
or sometimes the bean will crack internally if they get too dry, killing
the embryo if you're unlucky.
Most of us don't need to store seed for 20+ years. If we do, we're probably
going to invest in an old fashioned freezer that doesn't do auto-defrost
and we're going to spend some time with relative humidity measurements
before the seed goes into storage. There's just not enough seed in a
standard packet to last most of us more than about 5 planting seasons...
which means refrigerator storage in a sealed jar is fine. Grass seeds
won't do well under those conditions, but bean seeds will probably be fine
in a refrigerator in 20 or 30 years.
Every species has specific storage conditions that the seeds do well in, and
those conditions vary from species to species, and sometimes cultivar to
cultivar within species. If you want to put your seeds in the freezer,
they'll probably do just fine -- better than in the refrigerator --
with the exceptions of beans, with no other preparation than chucking them
into a container and chucking the container into the freezer. But they'll
last long enough in the refrigerator.
BTW, there have been a number of experiments on germinating seeds after
long term storage. One of the oddments that have come out of this is
that old seeds seem to germinate better if they get a 5 minute soak in
skim milk before planting. At least the last time I bothered to look,
no one had a real idea of "why?" figured out except for carrots -- there's
a seedcoat-borne virus of carrots and the skim milk inactivates the virus.
Then there's the Beale experiment on weed seed -- the guy who buried
jars full of weed seeds in a hole in the ground, and went and
dug one up and tried to germinate the seeds -- one jar every X years.
http://news.msu.edu/story/1901/ Which I guess proves you can't beat weeds.
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