How to Preserve Seeds

Saving seeds is a critical first step towards self-sufficiency, enabling you to grow true-to-type plants rather than mixing with other varieties and diluting their unique characteristics.

Begin with self-pollinating vegetables like beans and peas, or heirloom flowers. Allow them to fully mature before harvesting and drying – then store in a cool, dark area.


Seeds should be harvested at the appropriate time to ensure they have had ample time to mature and germinate, with timing playing an essential part in this process. Timing must be precise as a seed only survives as long as its parent plant; before collection for storage it must have formed fully and be completely dry – too early and they won’t germinate, too late and they may drop off, be eaten by birds, or blow away with the wind.

Vegetable seeds should be collected when their pod or seed head has dried out and is ready to break open when pressed upon. Some vegetables, like squash, pumpkins and cucumbers form their seeds inside the fruit; these should be saved after harvest but before cracking of skin occurs. Others, like beans, peas and crucifers form seeds within their seed pod or flower and should be harvested when mature and fully formed.

Once harvested, seeds must be cleaned before being stored to maximize growth potential. Cleaning prevents spoilage as well as keeping larger seeds free from their chaff (husks and skins of pod or fruit). Threshing machines are available for this task automatically while manual methods such as rolling pin threshing, flat soled shoe stomping, hand rubbing or hand threshing will do just as effectively for smaller quantities. Any remaining chaff can then be screened or winnowed for final cleaning.

Once seeds are clean and organized, they should be stored in containers such as paper twists, envelopes or jars to protect from moisture intrusion and spoilage. It is advised that they be placed in an inaccessible area with low temperature for optimal storage conditions.

Once seeds have been stored, it is a good practice to label them so they can easily be identified later when it’s time for replanting. Labels should include details like plant name and date of harvest as well as any additional pertinent information.


Once harvested, it is essential that seeds from your favorite plants be cleaned before storage to ensure high quality seeds that will germinate well when planted. There are various methods available for cleaning seeds; decanting, rinsing and soaking are often employed; soaking helps loosen any pulp clinging to them while decanting separates heavy, healthy seeds from lighter ones while the latter floats to the top.

Fermentation processes may also help eliminate seed-borne diseases that prevent germination in wet seeds from tomatoes, squash and several other crops. For best results, place them in a paper bag before shaking them while pouring the contents through a sieve; over time the chaff should settle out, leaving only seeds. For optimal results make sure the sieve has holes of various sizes to capture particles with different particle size gradients.

Many methods for cleaning seeds include rubbing them against each other to loosen any natural coatings on them. This can be done using cloth such as recycled face cloth or soft hand towel and may take some effort, depending on how stubborn the seed coatings may be. Another approach would be to shake seeds over a tray or baking sheet using a fine sieve; this works great with many species but ensure each seed packet bears its name clearly for proper identification at planting time.

Once seeds have been cleaned and processed, it is crucial that they are dried thoroughly before being stored away. Spread them out evenly onto a baking sheet or screen in a warm, dark spot and allow them to air-dry for several weeks until completely dried before placing them into an envelope with their label for later storage. Properly dried seeds should last several years while some types may last even longer.


No matter whether the seeds come directly from fruit or vegetable pods or have “bolted,” as in summer crops that went to seed in late August or September, before you can store them away they must first be dried out. This process may vary depending on their type: pepper and tomato seeds can be spread on paper towels to absorb most of their moisture before moving on a non-paper surface such as glass or ceramics for final drying – using non-paper surfaces will prevent sticking while also keeping lint at bay as they dry evenly; stir them every few days so as to keep an even balance during their drying timeframe.

If you need to dry a large volume of seeds quickly and evenly, oven drying is a convenient method. Set your oven’s lowest temperature and wait until your seeds have lost most of their moisture before transferring them onto a tray or baking sheet and placing in the oven to finish drying out any residual moisture. Stirring every half hour helps ensure even drying. Once they’ve reached optimal levels of dryness, take them out and store in an airtight container labeled with their name and harvest date for safekeeping.

An accurate rule of thumb for seed storage is five years. But keep in mind that environmental conditions will have a major effect on their longevity.

Seeds that aren’t fully mature when they are harvested or are overripe when collected are less likely to germinate successfully in subsequent years.

As you harvest seeds from your garden, vegetables and flowers, save some to use next spring. Seed-saving is an easy and rewarding way to build up a seed bank tailored specifically to local conditions while maintaining healthy varieties that adapt well.


Seeds will quickly lose viability if not stored correctly. A seed has an outer hard coat (known as the seed coat) with embryonic plant cells inside, which require food for survival. Once planted, they germinate or sprout and begin growing; early harvested seeds may not contain fully developed embryos that possess enough energy for healthy plants; these older less viable seeds will still germinate but produce plants with reduced vigor and susceptibility to disease and pests.

Seed storage requires low moisture and stable temperature conditions in order to be effective. High humidity and temperatures can accelerate embryonic plant metabolism and result in its rapid demise; in such conditions, mold forms quickly. Ideal temperatures should range between 32degF and 50degF while humidity should not surpass 50%; seeds can be placed in cool, dark places such as root cellars or in the back of refrigerators in containers that can be tightly sealed, such as tin cans or glass jars; sunlight could fade both color and texture over time.

An effective way to extend the shelf life of seeds is to add desiccant (drying agent), such as zeolites or silica gel, into containers in which they will be stored. When adding desiccant it should not exceed 10% of total volume within your seed jar or container and should bear information such as date collected and variety name; just in case they need to be returned back.

Pests such as beetles and weevils can do significant damage to harvested seeds, so it is wise to inspect them prior to storage. A vacuum sealer can remove oxygen from storage containers, decreasing their liveability for insects. Check your seeds carefully for infestation, and if any are discovered immediately seal and store in the freezer for two days before inspecting again.

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