For the small farmer, storing seeds can be very helpful. You can buy seeds in bulk and store them for future years, getting a better price on a larger quantity than you need for one season. Or perhaps your farm plans have changed and you just ended up with too many seeds.
You may also want to save seeds from your crops and vegetables, to develop your own varieties that produce the qualities you want in your farm products. You can cross-breed plants to develop varieties unique to your farm, or just enhance your production by saving seed from the most productive plants or plants with other qualities you desire.
Plus, ensuring that you have fresh seed that will germinate well is key to your success as a small farmer. With these tips, you'll be sure to have successful crop plantings.
Store Seeds For Next Year
Seeds store well at room temperature, as long as the humidity isn't extremely high, without loss of germination, for one year. You could also store them in a moisture-proof container in the refrigerator or freezer without doing anything else to them.
Seed Storage Conditions
To protect germination, seeds should be stored at low moisture and low temperature. This is the opposite of the conditions needed to germinate seeds: water, oxygen, and sufficient temperature. Ideal seed storage conditions are below 40 degrees F and about 8 percent moisture in the seed itself.
Dehydrating Seed to Store
One way to improve the length of seed storage is to dry it out. By drying at 100 degrees F for six hours, you will bring seed down to about eight percent moisture. After drying, store in moisture-proof containers - you should be able to submerge the container in water without any water or moisture getting inside - in the refrigerator or freezer. Seed that is dehydrated this way will store for up to ten years.
Ideally, use an electric dehydrator to bring the moisture down in the seed. You can also spread the seeds in the sun to get them to the proper temperature, but this is much less precise and could result in hard seed.
The Risk of Hard Seed
Dry seed is good, but if you bring the moisture content too low, you will create what is known as "hard seed." Hard seed will germinate poorly because it resists absorbing moisture. It will take time for hard seed to absorb enough moisture to germinate, so it will be slow to sprout. If the moisture in the seed gets below 8 percent, hard seed may result. Beans and peas are particularly prone to this as they require more moisture to germinate than other seeds. If you have hard seed, you can expose it to moisture for several weeks before planting to improve its germination.
Test for Germination
You can test seeds for germination rates by placing ten seeds on a damp paper towel. Keep them damp and warm. The number of seeds that sprout is your germination rate: if 5 seeds sprout, that is a germination rate of 50 percent. A germination rate of 50 percent is about the minimum you want - below that and you might not want to plant that seed at all.
Saving Seed From Your Crops
You can save seeds from your own crops and use these methods to store it safely for a year or a decade. Learn more about how to save seed properly: