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How to Save Heirloom Seeds? (Complete Guide)

To save heirloom seeds, you should dry them out and place them in a cool, dark place. 

This technique will ensure you can plant them the following year and keep these strains alive.

Heirloom seeds are a vital part of today’s world.

They are key to ensuring the survival of plants that we need, fighting monocultures, and maintaining diversity and resilience in our farming methods. 

It is therefore important to know how to store your seeds so that they will remain safe year after year.

What Are Heirloom Seeds?

Heirloom seeds come from plant varieties that have existed for 50 years or more.

By some classifications, only plants that were around before WWII are heirlooms.

These plants, often vegetables, have a rich heritage and have been part of our history for generations.

Additionally, people tend to pass them down through families, giving them an even more significant emotional value on top of their physical worth. 

These plants are also usually very stable and often have desirable qualities, which led to people keeping them in the first place, 

Typically, they have a better appearance, flavor, texture, or resilience than other plants.

Overall, heirlooms are important because if a variety is lost, there is no way to recover it today.

It is therefore vital to know how to preserve these strains.

Preventing Cross-Pollination

The first thing to do before harvesting seeds is to ensure that your heirloom plants do not get cross-pollinated.

Cross-pollination could ruin the stability of the seed, make next year’s yields inedible, and potentially wipe out the seed if you are the only owner of that variety.

So, you need to either grow plants that could cross-pollinate at a minimum distance or self-pollinate the seeds and cover the flowers.

You can do this by using a paintbrush to transfer pollen from one plant to another of the same type and then tying a paper bag over the flower so that no further pollination can occur.

The pollen will ensure that the fruit ripens, while the bag will prevent any further pollen from reaching the flower and altering the genetic information in the seeds.

Or, you can space your plants out instead of using a bag to prevent pollination.

But, if you try this method, you will need to find out what plants your neighbors grow, so their plants cannot accidentally pollinate yours.

Thus, if you protect your seeds, they should remain stable so you can harvest the seeds and produce the same crops year after year. 

Read Also >> How to Prevent Cross-Pollination

How Do You Harvest Heirloom Seeds?

The way you harvest heirloom seeds can vary from plant to plant. 

But in general, you will need to wait for one of the plant’s fruits to ripen and then collect it and bring it indoors.

Next, cut the fruit open, and scoop out the seeds. 

You should then wash away any pulp and set the seeds on a paper towel or sheet of paper to dry.

The paper will help to wick moisture away from the seed, encouraging it to dry out so you can store it without worrying about mold.

For the most part, you will need to leave seeds to dry for around two weeks. 

And while they dry, it is essential to turn them so that the different parts of the seeds are exposed to airflow and dry thoroughly.

You can also put your seeds in a warm place to improve drying. 

Just make sure that you don’t expose them to direct sunlight or heat, as this could kill the seed.

Finally, remember that if you store seeds without drying them first, they are at risk of turning moldy before the following year. 

So, never skip the drying step. 

Read Also >> Hybrid vs. Heirloom Plants

How Should You Store Heirloom Seeds?

Once you have dried the seeds, you can transfer them to a paper or plastic envelope. 

And, on this envelop, you should write the plant’s name and the harvest date so you can keep your records in order.

Then, you need to place the envelope in an airtight container and put it in a storage spot that is dry, cool, and dark.

Your place of storage is important because you need to protect heirloom seeds from sun, moisture, and heat, which can destroy them.

Therefore, you ought to choose a storage space that is cool and away from cookers, radiators, fires, and other heating elements.

The space should also be as dry as possible because moisture will either prompt the seeds to germinate too early or cause them to rot.

Additionally, you can add packets of silica gel or some dry rice to the storage container if you are not confident that the environment is dry enough.

But, overall, try to pick a dry spot and use an airtight container to keep the risk of moisture damage to a minimum.

You should also keep the seeds away from light, particularly sunlight, which could trigger germination or may damage the seed.

Thus, you can put the seeds in an opaque container, store them in a dark cupboard, or do both for maximum effect.

If you cannot store the seeds away from light, make sure they are in an opaque container and consider wrapping them in a cloth if needed.

What Else Can I Do To Preserve Heirloom Seeds?

Another trick for preserving heirloom seeds is to share with your neighbors and other local growers or participate in seed swap events.

This behavior aims to ensure that seed varieties are kept safe, so if one grower loses their crop, stops farming, or has other issues, others can maintain the seed variety.

Therefore, you may wish to pass seeds to your neighbors if they are interested, as they can then share the seeds with you if you lose your plants for any reason.

Or, you might also find that people will swap their seeds for your seeds, swelling your seed library and ensuring that you have a whole host of different plants to grow.

Swapping will increase the chances of those varieties surviving and reduce the problems of monocultures and hybrid seeds that you need to purchase year after year.


Heirloom seeds are perfect for saving year after year, but it is important to do so correctly. 

Ensure your seeds haven’t been cross-pollinated before storing them, and protect them from light, dampness, and heat.

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