Starting your vegetable garden from seeds is a great way to reduce your expenses and guarantee the plants were grown organically. It increases the variety of cultivars you have access to and allows you grow heirloom vegetables so you can save your own seeds. Or perhaps you want to store heirloom seeds with a long viability. It won’t take long until you run into the problem of how to store extra seeds.
There are 2 ways that I’ve successfully used to store extra seeds that are leftover in the packet. You can use either when you need to do more than just organize your seeds for the season.
After I determine how many plants I want and how many extras to start for just in case some didn’t grow, I am still left with many, in some cases over half, of the seeds from my packets. If you save seeds from your heirloom vegetables, it’s amazing how many seeds one plant often yields. I cringe at the thought of just throwing them away. Thankfully, there is a way to save the leftover seeds for next year.
How to Store Extra Seeds
You first need to find a proper storage area. It should be fairly dry and constantly cold
(around 32 to 40 degrees). Where can you find such an area as this? Well, look no farther than your kitchen. The refrigerator!
Place the packs in either an air-tight jar or a zipper bag. Also, add a napkin with two tablespoons of a moisture absorbent such as powdered milk, cornstarch, or silica gel into the seed container to help keep the seeds dry. After about two months, check the moisture-absorbing material. If it is damp, replace it with a fresh packet of drying agent.
This method is slightly less complicated than the refrigerator method. (If you can call it complicated.) But this method consists of vacuum sealing the seeds in a bag and tossing them in the freezer. (Use one of these makes it an easy job!)
Which method you choose really depends on which space has more room. I used to do the refrigerator method until we got a dairy cow and now I need every square inch of the refrigerator for half gallon mason jars full of milk.
Early in the spring, you’ll want to take an inventory of your seeds (I have a sheet in the Homestead Management Printables to help you do that) and perform a Germination Test for viability. Some seeds are viable longer than others and you don’t want to count on that stored packet when it’s full of duds.
How to Do a Germination Test on Seeds
Testing seeds for viability is done the same way that you would chit, or pre-sprout them. On a wet paper towel, lay out 10 seeds. Cover them with another wet paper towel. Place it in a ziplock bag in a warm, sunny place for a few days. (Warmth is more important than sun. Most seeds can actually germinate in the dark.) After the days to germination has gone by (I always go a couple extra days, just in case), count how many germinated and how many didn’t. This will give you a clue to how the seeds will germinate in the soil and whether you want to buy a replacement packet. I recommend doing this test a few weeks before you’re ready to plant so you have time to get your seed shipped.
You can also join a seed trade. I have heard of them, though never done them. I was thinking of trying to find one myself.
That’s a really neat idea. I’ve never heard of it before. It would certainly eliminate the uncertainty of whether they would germinate or not next year. Thanks for the tip.
The Prudent Homemaker says
I save my seeds every year. The germination rate is usually a little smaller, but that’s okay. This year I didn’t have to buy lettuce seeds.
I live in a really dry climate and I haven’t had any problems with moisture by just leaving them in the envelopes. That would be different for those in a really humid climate. I do keep mine cool.
In tha fall, you can plant your spring seeds again that you have saved–lettuce, turnips, radishes, etc. for a fall crop. If you live in a mild climate, like I do, you can plant things in the fall and harvest them in the spring, like we are doing now. Seed companies may run out of the seeds you want for your fall garden this year, as sales are up by huge percentages, so saving your seeds from spring purchass may be essential to you fall garden.
I do my peppers & tomatoes every yr. I was thinking of doing broccoli & caluiflower too.