Whether you’re planning to go off-the-grid or worried about losing access to your favorite fruits and vegetables, learning how to store seeds long term is a skill worth acquiring.
This task is very easy to learn and requires no special equipment. This guide simplifies the process and teaches you how to store seeds long term at home.
Let’s begin by learning about the nature of seeds.
Understanding the Nature of Seeds
Seeds are living things that contain the embryo of a plant. Ideal storage is quite similar to that of food items.
Unlike food, seeds can remain dormant for extended periods depending on their storage conditions and viability.
And not all seeds are appropriate for long-term storage.
Here are the requirements to check for the best seeds for long-term storage.
What Kind of Seeds Should You Be Storing?
If you want to learn how to store seeds long term, you will need time and lots of resources. This is why it’s best to choose the best kind of storable seeds.
Here are the characteristics to look for:
- Organic seeds
- Heirloom seeds
- Open-pollinated seeds
- Non-GMO seeds
- Non-hybrid seeds
If you’re interested in growing a complete survival garden, here are the best seed types to keep in storage.
Factors to Take Into Consideration When Storing Seeds
There are two main factors to consider when studying how to store seeds long term:
You must dry seeds before storing them. Wet seeds stored in the freezer will undergo frost damage and rot quickly.
For seeds with a gel-like seed coating, you must remove them before drying. Simply put the seeds in a container with water and shake it to get the gel off.
Once the seed coat is off, you can begin drying the seeds. Take out the clear seeds and lay them on parchment paper in a ventilated area with temperatures between 60-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave them to dry for one to three weeks.
Small seeds take up to 24 hours to dry, while larger seeds might take a week.
You can also dry seeds using a dehydrator at the lowest temperature and for shorter periods. However, food dehydrators are not suitable for smaller seeds. They also present a higher risk of excessive dehydration.
To confirm if your seeds are dry enough, perform a snap vs. bend test. If the seed cleanly breaks into two halves, it is dry enough. If it smashes or bends, it is still too wet to store.
How to store seeds long term and keep them healthy? The organization is a key factor in ensuring no seeds go to waste.
You can label seeds by storage date and crop type so you know exactly when to take them out.
You can use card catalogs or mason jars to organize your packets of seeds. Use the most efficient strategy based on your storage space and containers of choice.
How to Store Seeds Long Term
With proper care and ideal storage conditions, learning how to store seeds long term is incredibly simple.
If you’re taking seeds straight from your plants, get several from each round of crops. If you’re purchasing seed packages, make sure you find the right kind, as mentioned above.
Here are tips to help you store seeds for long-term use:
1. Use Airtight Containers
The first step is to get air-tight containers to store the seeds. Plastic, metal, and glass jars are all great options for seed storage.
You can put seeds straight into mason jars or in seed packets first. Just make sure to keep paper envelopes dry lest they trap moisture and impart it to the seeds.
Airtight containers prevent pests and moisture from entering and taking residence among your seeds once you’ve stored them.
2. Keep Moisture Out
Humidity and moisture aren’t necessarily enemies of seeds. But if you don’t want your seeds to sprout, you must keep moisture out.
How to store seeds long term? You’ve already put your seeds in airtight containers, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Use vacuum sealing when saving seeds.
If you live in a region with high humidity or moisture levels, storing silica gel packets with your seeds is a solution—they absorb excess moisture in the air. Plus, they’re reusable, so one batch will last many seasons.
3. Ensure Consistent Temperatures
Managing a stable temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower is a crucial part of how to store seeds long term. This is because temperature fluctuations are a germination cue for seeds.
If you aren’t sure your storage space will provide the ideal temperature conditions, freezer storage is the best option. Or you can use an extra refrigerator that you don’t open multiple times a day.
Residential freezers come with a risk of power loss, which results in thawing and seed decay. So make sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent it.
When you’re ready to use the seeds, take the glass containers out and let them reach room temperature before opening them. This ensures the seeds do not absorb moisture generated from thawing or condensation.
Remove the containers from the freezer and leave them out for a minimum of 12 hours to reach room temperature. Then, open the containers and expose the seeds to some air before direct planting.
After removing the seeds from the freezer, you cannot put them back in.
4. Store the Seeds in a Dark Spot
Light is another cue for seeds to prepare for germination. Light exposure can also result in decay. You must find a dark spot if you want to make the most of how to store seeds long term.
When storing seeds long term, your best bet is to store seeds inside opaque containers and keep them in an enclosed space with little to no light exposure.
If you don’t have a dark enough room at home, placing the seeds in a dark container and putting them in a closed cabinet is a good option.
5. Try Cold Storage
Can’t maintain consistent temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit? Find a cool spot out of sunlight with cool temperatures below 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You can keep certain seed varieties in these conditions, but only for short-term storage.
A cold closet, basement, or room on the north side of the home is ideal if you don’t have chest freezers.
6. Keep the Pests at Bay
Pests are the worst enemy of how to store seeds long term. Ensure your storage containers are pest-proof. From small insects to big rodents, pests come in all shapes and sizes and can find the tiniest openings or nibble their way through.
Take additional precautions to prevent infestations by putting oxygen absorbers in your seed containers. With no oxygen, pests won’t be able to survive or multiply.
Check your containers and storage space thoroughly. You don’t want the pests to start their assault after you’ve stored seeds for the long term.
If you find an infestation, fret not. Take out that container, re-seal it, and freeze seeds for two days. That should both prevent the spread of infestation and kill the pests.
Optimum storage conditions are crucial for how to store seeds long term. Give your seeds too much light or place them in humid environmental conditions, and you risk spurring the appearance of sprouts or seed decay.
How Long Do Seeds Remain Good For?
No matter how well you store your seeds, they won’t last indefinitely and will eventually decay or become useless.
The storage life differs for every seed and crop type.
In the list below, you’ll find the approximate seed viability for a range of crops and type of seeds.
Between One to Two Years
- Sweet corn
Between Three to Four Years
- Brussel sprouts
Between Five to Six Years
- Mustard Greens
This tests the germination rate of the seed variety. You can do this once you’ve taken the seeds out of storage.
Simply take a damp paper towel and place 10 seeds on it. Fold the towel and put it in a Ziplock bag. Leave the bag slightly open in a warm spot.
The number of seeds that sprout will give you the germination rate for that batch of seeds. If nine out of 10 seeds sprout, you have an excellent 90% germination rate.
While seed viability decreases with time, it doesn’t mean all your stock will have gone bad once they have crossed the expiry date.
A great strategy to make the most of a batch of expired seeds is to toss them into an unused section of your garden. In the worst case, they don’t sprout. And at best, you get a surprise crop!
Benefits of Storing Seeds Long Term
- Grow tasty heirloom varieties
- Ensure crop viability in case of natural disasters
- Become self-sufficient
- Grow organic produce with healthy plants
- Promote biodiversity
- Promote crops’ natural resistance against bugs and disease
- Extend the harvest season
Wrapping Up How to Store Seeds Long Term
Learning how to store seeds long term can ensure a steady supply of produce during the colder months or economic uncertainties. We hope this guide helps you properly store seeds for the long term and enjoy planting them when spring comes.
For more helpful guides on long-term food storage and tips, check out our Food Preservation section.