Finding the perfect seeds to store takes a bit of time. Not to mention a few extra days drying them out. Essentially when a person dries out the seeds, it basically stops the growth process until it is introduced to the right elements again. In my previous entry: Seed Collecting, I discussed how to choose the seeds, when to collect the seeds, and how to appropriately prepare them for storage. The Seed Storage entry will concentrate on the storage process, different ways to store the seeds and keeping the enemy (insects) away. Different types of seeds last longer than other.
Since the beginning of time, large farms as well as micro farms have been using seed storage to create bountiful crops. Even if you do not have a farm, per se, this advice can used for a home gardening as well.
Preparing the Seeds and Storing
- Make sure the seeds are well dried before you store them. A 10-year storage life can be achieved by drying seed to less than 8 percent moisture.
- Store them in the coolest place possible. Moisture and heat will cause the seeds to spoil.
- Protect the seeds from moisture using an airtight container with a tight fitting lid to keep out moisture. To make sure the containers are airtight, you can fill up the edges around the lids with wax or grease. Mason jars are commonly used, but ammo cases can be used to store seed as well. When using this method, drop a dissicant (silica or moisture absorber) into the case and close.
Tips For Keeping the Container Airtight
- You can also melt paraffin or candle wax and turn the jars upside down and dip them in it to make an airtight seal around the lid. Or dip a piece of cloth in hot wax and drape it over the opening of the container to seal it.
- Another way to keep seeds from absorbing moisture from the air is to put something in the container with the seeds that will absorb the moisture instead. You can use freshly toasted grains of rice, wheat or maize, or toasted dried peas. Toast the rice, wheat or maize grains or dried peas by heating them slowly and moving them around continuously in a shallow pan over your stove. They should be completely dried out, but not burnt.
- You can make a cloth bag for the toasted grains so that they will not mix with the seed. Fill the cloth bag with toasted grain, and then put it in the container with the seed. Put about twice as much toasted grain in the container as seed.
- If you open the container and take out some of the seeds, but you want to store the rest of the seeds longer, take out the old toasted grain and replace it with fresh toasted grain before you seal the container again.
- You could place the airtight seed containers in a pit in the dirt floor of a shed or storage hut safe from rain or flooding. That way they will be both cool and dry.
- Make sure that labels are put on the seeds with the type of plant, growing instructions, and date. This will come in handy when using the seeds the next year.
- Paper envelopes or bags are a good way of storing seeds as well. This method allows for good air circulation and prevents “sweating.” Once the seeds are sealed in the envelopes, place them in air tight container. Add a bag of silica or powdered milk to absorb any excess moisture.
Keep Insects Out
Making sure the containers are airtight protects the seed for its next use as well as keeps insects from destroying the seed.
Tips On Keeping Out Insects
- Add five millilitres (one tablespoon) of vegetable oil, such as African palm oil, crude cottonseed oil, coconut palm oil, or peanut oil, to one kilogram of well-dried vegetable or grain seeds. Shake the seed and oil together in a jar for five minutes until the oil lightly covers all the seeds. Then store the seed in airtight containers in a cool place.
- Adding ashes to your seed storage is another way of reducing the insect problem. First remove all the pieces of burnt wood from the ash so that only dust remains. Mix the ash dust with the seeds so that the seeds are well coated. Add 1/5 kilogram (200 grams) of fine ash to every kilogram of seed.
Summing Things Up
In summary, storing seeds is essential for your long term preparation. Choose seeds to save for next season by taking three trips through your field to pick seeds. Collecting only the best seeds that are without abnormalities and finding characteristics in the plant that are appealing will create a nice variety crop source. Once the seeds are stored, follow the three rules of seed storage: dry the seeds well; put them in airtight containers; and store them in a cool place. Protect seeds from insect damage by mixing them with oil, ashes, or insect-repelling plants such as neem. If the best seeds and varieties are saved each season, the next year’s crop will be even more plentiful. And having a good seed collection is a great source of trading with other neighbors or locals.
To learn more about seed collecting and what the right types of seeds to store.
This blog entry is a paraphrase of the article found on farmradio.org. For more information: