Sensible Storage for Seeds

By Ian Robb

Originally printed in the 2012 Turtle Tree Seed Catalog

We are often asked by our customers: “How do we store left-over seed until the next planting season?” Before answering this question let me tell you how we store our seed here at Turtle Tree. First we make sure the seed is thoroughly dry. Then we pack the seeds in small brown bags or white seed- envelopes. We double- bag to avoid any seed loss through holes or cracks. We close the bags using rubber bands. The seed is now contained but not packed too tightly. Our seed storage room is dark and maintains a temperature all year round of approximately 43°F and a relative humidity of 45%. In short, cold, dark and dry! We do not store our seeds in plastic bags, freezer bags or plastic containers. We do not store our seeds in open jars in a room with fluctuating temperatures and alternating darkness and light. What we are trying to do is to hold the seed in what I call “slumber”, waiting to wake up when planted in soil at the right temperature with the necessary amount of water and light in which to germinate and grow.

Now to answer the question: You will need to adapt our method to your situation. Do you have a basement that is dry and stays cool all year round? If you do, make sure that your stored seed is protected from insects and animals. If you do not have a cool dry place in the house then probably the refrigerator will have to do. Check the temperature to see if it is around 43°F. I would recommend that you keep the seed in their original packets (if you have to use new bags or packets make sure they are labeled correctly), store them in a dry glass jar with a tight fitting lid. This situation in the refrigerator should create the necessary cold, dark and dry environment.

Wherever you store your seeds, check them occasionally to make sure that they have not become moldy, or damaged by insects or rodents; this will avoid disappointment when sowing time comes around.

I trust that with these simple guidelines you will find your own solutions to successfully store seeds in your home. May I emphasize that correct storage procedures apply to seeds wherever, whenever. For example, if you like to get your seed order in early winter, please make sure that your seeds are properly cared for until sowing time!