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10 Tips for Storing Your Seeds

Pinto Bean - St. Clare Heirloom SeedsIf you have leftover vegetable seeds or you want to save your seeds from your Heirloom Open Pollinated plants from your vegetable garden this year, you'll need to store them properly to ensure good germination.



  1. They need to be dry and cool no matter where you're storing your seeds. Humidity and warmth shorten the shelf life of seeds.
  2. The refrigerator is generally the best place for storing your seeds, or else another cool spot in your living space.
  3. Keep your seed packets in plastic food storage bags, plastic film canisters, mason jars a lid, or glass canisters with gasketed lids.
  4. You can check your bigger Open Pollinated / Heirloom vegetable seeds to make sure they are dry enough by smashing a couple with a hammer. If the seed shatters, then it is dry enough.
  5. To keep seeds dry, wrap 2 heaping tablespoons of powdered milk in 4 layers of facial tissue, then put the milk packet inside the storage container with the seed packets, or add a packet of silica gel. DO NOT use oxygen absorbers in storing seeds or vacuum seal them. Seeds need oxygen to remain viable, as they are living organisms. Only use moisture absorbers.
  6. Store each year's Open Pollinated / Heirloom vegetable seeds together and date them. Because most seeds last about 3 years, you'll know at a glance which container of seeds might be past its prime when planting season comes.
  7. When you're ready to plant, remove seed containers from the refrigerator and keep them closed until the seeds warm to room temperature. Otherwise, moisture in the air will condense on the seeds, causing them to clump together.
  8. If you're gathering and saving seeds from your own Open Pollinated / Heirloom plants, spread the seeds on newspaper and let them air dry for about a week. Write seed names on the newspaper so there's no mix-up. Pack the air-dried seeds in small paper packets or envelopes, and label with plant name, date, and other pertinent information. Remember, if you want to save your own seeds, you'll need to plant open-pollinated or heirloom varieties. They'll come back true to type; hybrids won't.
  9. You can also dry saved seeds on paper towels. They'll stick to the towels when dry, so roll them up right in the towel to store them. When you're ready to plant, just tear off bits of the towel, one seed at a time, and plant seed and towel right in the soil.
  10. Even if you're organized, methodical, and careful about storing seeds, it's good to realize and accept the fact that some seeds just won't germinate the following year. Home Open Pollinated / Heirloom vegetable gardeners will find that stored sweet corn and parsnip seeds, in particular, have low germination rates, and some other seeds will only remain viable for a year or two.

These ten tips for storing your seeds will help you keep your seeds viable for longer!