Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Storing vegetable seeds properly is an important part of next year's successful garden. Vegetable seeds that have been stored well will have much better germination rates then seeds stored wrong. Besides improved germination, knowing how to store seeds for long term can save you hundreds of dollars worth of seeds!
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The Top 3 Most Important Factors to Store Seeds Long Term
There are three main things that cause degradation of seeds. These are:
Ideally, to store seeds long term you want to keep the humidity as low as possible, the temperature between 2⁰C and 4⁰C (35⁰F - 40⁰F) and expose the seeds to as little light as possible.
The Best Place to Store Seeds Over the Winter
My favorite place to store vegetable seeds over the winter is in our beer fridge. A fridge temperature is normally perfect for seed storage. Refrigerators also often have less light exposure than other areas of our homes. This takes care of temperature and light, so next let's think about how to reduce moisture levels.
How to Reduce Moisture for Long Term Seed Storage
One of my favorite ways to decrease moisture in my seed packages is to throw silica packs in my seed storage box. You know those little packages that come in shoe boxes and vitamins? Yes, those ones! They are generally filled with silica, which is a safe, natural moisture absorbent. And best of all, they are free when reusing them!
When it is an option, I prefer paper seed packages to plastic as paper is better for preventing and absorbing moisture buildup. Keep this in mind if you are storing seeds you saved yourself. I know those little plastic bags from the dollar store are the perfect size for storing seeds! But if you can find some small envelopes, that would be preferable.
Avoid quick, large temperature changes with your seeds as quick changes in temperature can cause humidity. If you plan to take your seeds out in the sun to plant, try to take them out of the fridge a day ahead of time. Avoid taking seeds in and out of the fridge any more often than necessary. I like to store my seeds divided by what month I plan to plant them in, that way I can just remove what I need for that month.
Storing Seeds in a Freezer
I don't suggest storing seeds in a freezer for long term storage as many seeds don't tolerate freezing temperatures well. Also, the change in temperature from a freezer to room air can cause condensation in seed packages.
Saving Your Own Seeds from Year to Year
Watching plants grow from seeds you collected and saved yourself is extra rewarding! Learn more about how to collect and save your own seeds here.
Be sure to check out my blog post on the Best Companies to Buy Seeds From. I have tried to include what companies will send out a free seed catalog. Seed catalogs are not only SO MUCH FUN but they are often jam packed full of useful information on growing.
How Long Do Seeds Last For?
Most vegetable seeds last between 2 to 10 years, although there are many stories where people have found seeds decades old and have had luck germinating some of them. Expired seeds will often still germinate, just expect a lower germination rate than with fresh seeds. You can check germination rates by placing 10 seeds on a damp paper towel. Keep the paper towel moist until a week past the expected germination time. Most seeds should have around at least an 80% germination rate.
Tip: Write the year you purchased or collected your seeds on each seed package so you can track which ones need to be replaced. Some seed companies, like West Coast Seeds, print the year right on the package for you.
Be sure to print out my free printable seed checklist to help you know what you need to order for next year.
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