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Storing Seeds

Squash Seedling

For the most part, the garden is planted. There’s a few more things I might tuck in here or there, but if I don’t get around to it, I feel satisfied with the finished plantings. Now that the garden is done, it’s time for me to take a look at the seeds we have left over. I like to experiment with different varieties each year. For example, this is our first year growing Pak Choi. I’m excited to add it to stir fries but I don’t see us eating a ton of it. So I planted a few plants and have a bunch of seeds left over.  

Pumpkin Seeds

We also saved seeds last year from varieties that are easy to handle like heirloom pumpkins, gourds and squashes. So instead of a small envelope of seeds, I had several pumpkins worth which in some cases, like with our Connecticut Filed pumpkins, yielded a Quart size baggie full of seeds. All last fall I had paper plates strewn about the house, on every horizontal surface with labeled paper plates with seeds drying. I would toss them and turn them every few days until the seeds were dry enough to store.

It seems that all over the country it was a funny year for gardeners. In Michigan, the cold crept into June and was followed by heavy rains that left our garden areas muddy and in some areas too wet to plant. In our case, with our shorter growing season, it became somewhat of a race to get the seeds in, wet or not, and hope for the best. Our pumpkin patch boasts over 1000 hand planted pumpkins, and most are coming up nicely, despite my worries that the ground would eventually dry up and turn to cement.

Some days I felt as though Mother Nature was playing some sort of joke. We were peppered with fast moving storms that would spring up out of nowhere. I would be out in the field with seed packets scattered about and a misty rain would sneak up on me and send me scurrying to gather the seed envelopes and cover them from the wetness.  

The dampness became a battle even in touching the seeds. In planting, poking the seed hole and covering the seeds our fingers would collect mud and dampness from the saturated soil. Then each time I reached inside the packet, the envelope got dirty, damp and disfigured. 

Taped Seed Packet

So to make the most of our hard work it’s important for me to take the time to store our seeds properly. Moisture and heat are the enemies of storing seeds. I gathered all the seeds that we had left, straightened the envelopes that were salvageable and taped the ends closed with blue painters tape. I like painters tape because it can be removed easily next year without doing damage to the paper envelope.   

Seed Envelope

For the seeds that we saved ourselves, I re-packaged them in clean paper envelopes with the date, variety, and any other notes I remembered about this seed.  

Cornstarch Pillow

Then the envelopes get packed into a storage container with a pillow of cornstarch to absorb moisture. I actually go this idea from an older Martha Stewart program. She used powered milk, but I find cornstarch works well too. You can also save silica gel packets that are often found with new shoes and place them in your seed box.   

Storing Seeds

I store our seed labels, a Sharpy marker, and extra enveloped with our seeds on a shelf in our supply room. If stored properly, your seeds will last for years.