You should always keep seeds in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and safe from rodents.
In general, you should store seeds below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and in a darkened container.
The key to storing seeds is to avoid giving them the cues that tell them to grow and to prevent them from damage during the storage period.
Light and moisture tell seeds to grow, and moisture can also cause them to rot in certain conditions, so dryness and darkness are crucial.
Let’s look at precisely what you need to do to keep seeds long-term.
4 Tips to Store Seeds Long-Term
1. Keep Them Dark
Seeds will not last well if they come into contact with light because the light triggers growth.
If they do get light, the seeds will start to split open, exposing the plant inside to damage.
If the seedling isn’t in the soil, it will fail to grow, and the seed will no longer be viable because it will have used up its energy and resources.
You must therefore keep seeds in the dark.
Many people choose to keep seeds in plastic sealer bags because they reduce the risk of them getting wet.
But sealer bags are not opaque and will allow light to touch the seed.
Thus, you can either put the sealer bags in an opaque container to combat this issue or store them in a dark cupboard.
Alternatively, you could keep the seeds inside a paper bag, which will block out the light.
All of these things should solve the issue of direct sun hitting the seed and prompting it to grow.
However, remember that a little bit of light will not harm a seed.
But prolonged exposure and strong sunlight will cause the seed to try to germinate, which will kill it.
So, the longer your seeds will be in storage, the more careful you should be about light exposure.
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2. Keep Them Dry
Moisture may be the biggest enemy of seed storage.
Thus, you must keep your seeds dry if you want them to remain viable.
You have to keep them dry because seeds that get damp will start trying to germinate immediately.
And if your seed tries to grow, it will expend its resources and die.
It is also essential to keep them dry because wet seeds may start to mold or rot, which will ruin their viability just as much as an impromptu germination would.
How to Keep Seeds Dry
There are a few aspects to keeping seeds dry.
The first involves ensuring that the seeds are completely dry before you store them.
In most cases, you need to place seeds on a paper towel to dry out for a few days after you’ve harvested them.
The paper towel will absorb moisture from the seed, wicking it away so that the seed can dry out.
Once the seeds are completely dry, you can place them in storage.
But you also need to make sure no moisture gets back into them during this time.
A lack of any kind of moisture is absolutely crucial to long-term storage, so you should be careful about the storage method you use.
As mentioned above, many people use plastic bags because they are watertight, but any other waterproof container will also perform well.
Mason jars, Tupperware, freezer bags, and other solutions will all work as long as you seal them properly.
Additionally, you might think that just storing the seeds in a dry cupboard should be sufficient, but there is a surprising amount of moisture in the air as well.
And if moisture from the air gets into the seeds, it can lead to issues.
Therefore, you absolutely need an airtight receptacle to reduce the risk of your seeds getting damp as time passes.
Then, place this sealed container somewhere dry.
Also, avoid keeping your bag or jar that holds your seeds in a shed or greenhouse, where residual moisture could ruin the seeds.
Overall, if you are particularly worried about wetness, consider adding some silica gel packets or dry rice to the container.
This storage method will help trap any moisture that does seep in, keeping your seeds safe and dry.
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3. Keep Them Cool
Temperature is another significant factor in seed storage.
And what temperature your seeds need can vary depending on the kinds you are storing.
However, as a general rule of thumb, you should keep seeds cool.
Most seeds germinate in the spring when temperatures rise, so it’s vital to ensure that your seed storage solution will not mimic this condition.
Thus, you don’t want the seeds to go from a cold environment to a warm one, or you will invite germination.
Constantly cool storage is, therefore, the best option, and you can achieve this in several ways.
Firstly, a dark cupboard that gets no direct sun and enjoys stable temperatures should work well for maintaining the coolness of your seeds.
You may find that it helps to put a thermometer in the cupboard to get an idea about its average temperatures at different times of the day and year before you settle upon this spot.
Or, if you have a basement, this area is often the best spot to put seeds, as it is likely to be dark, cool, and remain a stable temperature.
However, you should watch out for moisture if your basement is damp.
Consider Storing Them in the Fridge or Freezer
Finally, you can also put seeds in the fridge or freezer, and some people find that this works well.
But, you just need to be more careful with this option.
The fridge will keep the seeds cool, but it does suffer from two issues: temperature fluctuations and moisture.
So, it is best to keep seeds in a stable part of the fridge, near the back, rather than in the door, where temperature fluctuations are worst.
You should also take even more care to protect your seeds from moisture if you are going to store them in the fridge.
Alternatively, the freezer offers a more stable environment and fewer temperature fluctuations.
However, there is the risk that seeds will thaw if you have a power failure, and thawing and re-freezing will reduce their viability.
You should therefore be cautious about storing seeds in the freezer if power failures are likely in your area and you cannot protect your frozen goods during one.
Although being frozen and thawed once is unlikely to have a noticeable impact on the viability of seeds, repeat occurrences will massively reduce their chances of germination.
Additionally, you need to be careful about how you remove the seeds from the fridge or freezer.
The issue here occurs because as seeds warm, moisture will gather on the outsides of the container, which could damage the seeds.
So, you will need to bring them up to room temperature without opening the container (which provides the moisture barrier).
To do this step correctly, set your bag or jar on the kitchen counter and allow it to warm up for 12 hours before you open it so that the seeds stay dry.
Next, allow the seeds to air for a couple of days before planting them.
Airing should give you the best chances of successful germination.
And, remember that leaving them open to the air at this point is fine, as a bit of moisture won’t hurt because you are now ready for them to germinate.
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4. Protect Them From Pests
Many animals will eat seeds, including rodents, weevils, beetles, and other insects.
And nibbled seeds will rarely germinate, even if the damage appears minor.
You must therefore protect your seed stores from any pests.
So, if you have rodents, you will need to use a thick plastic or metal container with a locking lid so that they cannot get in.
Conversely, if insects are a problem, make sure the container is airtight.
Also, you ought to inspect your seeds closely before storing them to make sure you aren’t accidentally storing bugs too.
An airtight container should help kill off any stowaways, as they will not have the oxygen necessary to survive, and they will die before they can eat many of your seeds.
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How Long Do Seeds Last?
It’s also essential to think about the lifespan of your seeds when it comes to storing them, as some seeds will keep much better than others.
Although seed viability can vary, you may find the below list helpful in deciding how to store your seeds.
Up to 2 years:
Up to 4 years:
Up to 6 years:
Just remember that these estimates are guidelines only, and they assume that you’ve stored the seeds correctly to prevent early germination or damage.
Storing seeds in the long term involves some careful preparation to ensure they don’t germinate early or get damaged during storage.
For the most part, keep your seeds in a dry, cool, and dark area and away from pests.