If we are unable to plant all the seeds that are included in your packets, can they be saved to use in next year’s garden? or even the year after?
Yes, if you are unable to use all of your seeds purchased in a given year you can certainly store them. The keys to storing seeds for length of viability are a cool, dark, dry environment. One of the best ways we recommend for a year or two storage without loosing much viability is to store them in a mason jar, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator, and with some kind of wrapping either inside or outside the container to help keep out light (this part is not as necessary as the cool and sealed, we have skipped this step and had good results, but we give this recommendation for keeping the highest germination rate possible).
One can also freeze seeds that are low enough in moisture (8% or less) for even longer storage. But, low enough moisture can be hard to determine for the home gardener. For this reason, we typically just recommend refrigerator storage for most of our customers. 🙂
Here are some quotes on the subject of saving seeds, including for long-term storage, taken from an excellent resource on the subject of growing and saving seeds for vegetable gardeners “Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth:
- “Seeds will retain maximum vigor when thoroughly dried and stored in a moisture proof container”
- “The two greatest enemies of stored seeds are high temperature and high moisture. Seeds that are stored at fluctuating temperature and moisture levels will quickly loose their ability to germinate.”
- “Glass and metal are the only common materials that are completely moisture proof. Glass jars with good rubber seals under the lids, such as baby food jars or canning jars with new lids, provide a nearly airtight seal when screwed on really tight.”
- “Seeds of all species can be stored for many years with almost no loss of germination and only minimal loss of vigor, when dried to about 8% seed moisture, sealed into an airtight container (such as in the above quote) and frozen.”
- “A quick and easy test(to see if dry enough) is that seeds will break instead of bending when folded if their moisture level is 8% or less. Also hard shelled seeds, such as beans or corn, will shatter instead of mashing when placed on concrete and struck with a hammer.”
A way we have found of drying seeds for the home gardener to bring the moisture low enough, and keep high viability is using a food dehydrator, with very careful monitoring of temperature, as anything over 95°F will damage the seeds viability. We always keep at 85°F to be safe. Even placing on a window screen with a fan blowing on them until they are dry enough works.