Seed Trading forum: Organizing and storing seeds

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Dec 11, 2014 7:30 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
Now that the 2014 Piggy Swap is over, and I have a LOT of seeds that will be coming in, I'm looking for some suggestions about how other people organize their seeds, and where they store them from one year to the next.

My seeds are currently stashed in a couple of plastic shoe boxes, which are kept in our spare bedroom (everything that I don't know where to put seems to end up there Whistling ) Not the best system, because I have to keep looking through the whole bunch time after time, to see what I actually have, to find the ones that need to be planted when it's time to plant them, etc. This is normally pretty cumbersome -- but with all the oinked-for seeds coming I REALLY need to do something differently. I do store my bean seeds in the freezer, because long ago I read that will kill off any potential insect pests.. and they stay viable for quite a few years that way. Are there any types of seeds that shouldn't be stored in the freezer?

Thanks in advance!
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Dec 11, 2014 7:57 PM CST
Ontario, Canada (zone 6a)
I don't know about organizing....I am anything BUT organized!

But storing seed at room temp in regular area is a way to lose viability fast...

Drying is very important too. (seedbanks use glass containers and silica desiccant) Moisture kills viability. temp fluctuations kill viability and high temps kill viability...

I do not know of any that should NOT be stored in the freezer. I put all my extra seed in the freezer if I can't use it. And it not so much kills all the pests as prevents any damage (because they are not active if they do survive freezing).
[Last edited Dec 11, 2014 8:00 PM CST]
Quote | Post #1107348 (2)
Dec 11, 2014 8:27 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
Thanks, Brenda!
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Dec 12, 2014 7:56 AM CST
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana
Any that come to me noted as 'refrigerated' are stored there -in a lidded canning jar.

Binders with sleeve pages, stored cool, dry and dark work well for seeds that are kept for short durations.

When I get ready to plant a certain section of packets I gather them up into a saved bubble envelope to carry out with me.

I'm not sure about which seeds should/can go into the freezer, but as long as they're dry, most are probably okay. Smiling It seems to me that I recall freezer temps are used in the big seed vaults (saw that on Dirty Jobs Hilarious! ).
Dec 12, 2014 12:00 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
Thanks, Chelle -- I know I read your idea for using the binders and pocket pages when it was first posted, but apparently totally forgot about it! Maybe this time it will stick with me...

(wonder how I missed that episode of "Dirty Jobs" ? I loved that show! )
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Dec 12, 2014 12:37 PM CST
Name: Jonna
Belgium, Europe
Well, everyone has his or her own way to store seeds, so you'll have to find out what works best for you.
I will tell you my way to store seeds.
First of all, I almost never put my seeds in the freezer. I know seed banks do that, but none of us has a freezer to keep them as cold as they do. Besides that, a lot of tropical seeds won't survive that.
After I harvested seeds from my garden, I let them dry for at least 2 weeks, bigger seeds need more time, seeds of pumpkins need at least 2 months! The only time I got mould in my seeds was when I stored the pumpkin seeds after a month.
After drying, it's important to clean the seeds to get rid of chaff and insects and the eggs. Most insects will be gone after drying (they prefer to fly around in the room or excape through the window).
I know Ella can tell you a lot about seed packets she gets with insects. Maybe those seeds were not cleaned well or maybe I don't have any insects or eggs of them that will survive.
Anyway after drying and cleaning I store my seeds in closed containers, mostly the ones who were used to store rolls of film (hope this is the right word for it - see the picture)

Thumb of 2014-12-12/JonnaSudenius/cd70d6

I store my seeds in the former stables. Temperatures are between 15°C in summer and -2°C in winter. Besides the pumpkin seeds, no seed ever moulded, even not after 4 years in those containers!

People who live in a humid climate, might have to dry and store in another way, but for me it works well. I do not have the intention to keep seeds viable forever, but usually they stay viable for at least the amount of years that they should be viable.

Dec 12, 2014 11:18 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
Thank you, Jonna!

(however, I am NOT going back to using my film camera just to get the film canisters to store seed... now I just save the medication containers... Hilarious!
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Dec 13, 2014 7:24 AM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
I don't freeze any tropical seeds. They are tropical for a reason and like mentioned above, you can damage a tropical seed by freezing it.

I don't freeze anything for any length of time. I may take seeds like hibiscus, echies and rudbeckias and maybe corn and peas and beans and toss them in for a few days just to make sure any critters are stopped.

I have been in a seed bank vault before and it was not freezing temps at all. Now it was cool for sure. If you planned on being in there any length of time, you needed a jacket. But seed banks are usually all climate controlled constantly and the humidty is kept at certain temps round the clock too.

I used to use the camera containers too. They were great, but since digitals came out, the way of film plastic containers went out the window. I'll use medicine bottles too, glass jars , glassine bags and plastic baggies.

Organized. I wish, but no way. I try. Closest I have gotten is having veggies in one group, herbs in another and plants in another and than break them down into alphabets.

Like Jonna said they don't have freezers in a lot of places overseas. For most , the fridge is the small ones like you find in college dorms. Maybe that's why those folks are healthier than we are as just about everything eaten is fresh, real fresh. Yet look at all the seed , especially alot of the new cultivars that come from overseas. If something needs a cold chill, you winter sow it.
Dec 13, 2014 10:02 AM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
At least I'm not feeliing so bad about being disorganized anymore... Big Yellow Grin
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Dec 13, 2014 11:25 AM CST
Name: Julianna
Victoria, BC USDA Zone 8
Interesting. I use a combination of just about everything mentioned here. My tomato seeds are all in Lee Valley binders organized by letter. I have over 2000 varieties and it's just easier for me to find them that way. Each year's tomatoes has its own binder with the original seed source and my saved seeds in the same pocket. That's about as organized as I get. I have a few other binders, 2 for flowers, 1 for herbs, 1 for vegetables, but if I go on like that, I'll need more binders, so I do need to re-think my methods.

Big seeds have their own box. I'm talking about seeds I haven't grown yet. Big seeds that I've grown and saved get re-purposed pill bottles. One of my aunts lived to her mid-80's and for the last few years of her life, she was on a lot of different medications, so Mom packed up all of her old bottles and sent them here. Those are very useful because they're larger than your average Tylenol or vitamin bottle, but I do use those as well. For large amounts of big seeds, I use re-purposed cream cheese containers. Duane, being the pepper head that he is, makes a lot of grilled or smoked jalapeño poppers, so we have a lot of cream cheese containers. All of these bigger containers get stored in a large shallow Rubbermaid container and that gets stored in the coolest driest part of the house, the office away from the computers. I also store my baking chocolate in there.

Tiny seeds like Portulaca and Salpiglossis go into the very small craft containers I get at Dollarama. That place has a lot of useful, very inexpensive things for my seed addiction like ziplocs in the small size that are used for my seed trades and the 2x3" ones are used for my piggie troughs. It has craft containers in 3 sizes, the largest size have locking lids so you can stack them without fretting that they'll topple over.

Duane got me a really nice present one year - a metal box with 4 sections for each season and 12 index cards for each month, specifically designed for seeds. I use that for each gardening year once I've figured out what I'm going to plant and when. It's imminently useful and I go back to it constantly until everything's planted. The second half of the year does not see much work from that box because I have not yet figured out how to do a fall planting when I'm up to my ears in canning and seed-saving like a mad squirrel at that time.

Thinking about it, just about any plastic container gets a second life in this house. I save the plastic clamshell containers from the cherry tomatoes that we buy in the winter. I give a lot of cherry tomatoes away as gifts from the garden and they're perfect containers. The sectioned containers that you get for veggie platters are also re-used when I have my own garden produce to put out for snacks. Large yogurt tubs are used for long stalks or racemes of basil & salvia, labeled with the variety and year for threshing later. Small yogurt cups are used both for short-term storage of gathered small seeds and also to ferment tomato pulp and seeds. Even the styrofoam trays that mushrooms get packaged with are re-used as mass planting trays or dishes underneath cell-packs for watering from below.
Grazie a tutti,
Dec 13, 2014 4:45 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
Juliana, lots of great info in your post, thank you ! (why have I never thought to save the cherry tomato containers for the ones I give away ?? Hilarious! )
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Dec 14, 2014 3:34 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
Found this on the Seed Savers Exchange site:

"One of the best places for short-term (less than 5 years) seed storage—a practice tried and true—is on a shelf in your bedroom closet (Cool, Dry, Dark). Or, if you really want to hedge your bets, properly storing seeds in the freezer may keep them alive and waiting for years and years. Just remember to let the entire container of frozen seeds acclimate to warmer temperatures before opening the package. Also, always label your seeds properly!"
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Dec 14, 2014 6:32 PM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
Under the bed in storage containers works good too. Usually dark, and cool under there. Not a good place though is you have small children or animals that might get into them.
Jan 28, 2015 11:27 AM CST
Name: kacee
southern california
my storage method is simple, everything is sorted first as to: herbs, veggies, flowers, trees and shrubs, and other. then is alphabetized and placed in envelopes in abc order in the box for that category. unfotunately I had a few years of total seedaholicism and the boxes ended up covering the entire double bed in the guest room. since then I have been trying to send out more than come in, and am really really trying not to buy any more. The piggy swap alone has given me enough to plant for the next few years.

sadly, I am not good at keeping strains pure, I dont seem to be able to remember what will intermix and what wont in the veggie garden, so I only offer commercial seeds, or seeds people have given me, when I trade/swap. I do way better with flower seeds and native plants as far as purity goes. I have no issue with consuming everything I grow, or sharing it, more interested in taste than purity, but just not comfortable trading seeds that might have interbred(so to speak not sure what you call it)
Jan 28, 2015 10:24 PM CST
Name: Sandy B.
Michigan UP (Zone 4b or 5a)
" The piggy swap alone has given me enough to plant for the next few years."

I could have written that, myself! Blinking

I definitely need to get to work with some sorting... what to winter sow, and some kind of schedule for planting things -- I have a lot more flower varieties this year than I normally do, lots of perennials that I'll be growing for a butterfly/bee/bird garden; I have the routine down pretty good for the veg garden, but this is going to add a whole new dimension to the puzzle. Big Yellow Grin
"I am still learning"~~ Michelangelo
National Gardening Association
Feb 28, 2015 6:06 PM CST
Name: Judy
Simpsonville , SC
This year I have so an almost everything that I received. Except for the things tgT need to be direct sown. And my excess seeds that werent given away in swap were party favors at my Christmas party. I do have notebooks with photo pockets for storage so I have backup in case there is a aeedling failure. The last couple years my seeds were getting out of hand so I started looking for ways to give away more. Funny thing is now everyone thinks of me as the seed lady.
Aug 24, 2015 2:00 PM CST
Name: aka GardenQuilts
Facebook, NGA
and the beloved Winston the pug
Seeds from My Garden
Collect and save in open containers - labeled Italian ice cups this year. I have two shallow boxes filled with open Italian ice cups for collecting seeds. The boxes fit on top of my bookshelf or china cabinet, so I have much less clutter this year. Summer is humid here. I wait until Thanksgiving to start packing seeds into closed containers. large or freshly collected seed may wait until as late as January to be packaged. I keep the seeds from my garden in pill/vitamin bottles or small jars. I package them for trades as requested.

I tried rubbermaid shoe containers instead of cardboard, but didn't like them. The plastic containers have rounded corners, but my labels and dividers work better with square corners.

I separate the seeds into wintersown, sewn indoors and sown outside after first frost. I realize these categories overlap. I sow anything that can be wintersown using that method since I have had the most success with that method. I subdivided these categories into veggies (sorted by common name), herbs, annuals/tender perennials, perennials (organized alphabetically by latin name). I also separate seeds needing soaking, scarification or special treatment and special.fussy seeds.

Seeds from Swaps and Purchased Seeds
I store these alphabetically by category in cardboard shoe boxes. I put the boxes and the boxes from above in a rubbermaid tote with desiccant. I could fit my seeds in one box with room to spare, but I find it convenient to have separate boxes. Perhaps, I should get smaller than shoe boxes. I check the humidity and change the desiccant. The tote is in a closet. I have two shoe boxes - one for seeds that can be wintersown, one for other seeds. I give away and trade seeds that I am not going to use. My goal is a garden full of plants, not boxes of seeds.

I was afraid to sow certain "special seeds". I realized that was silly and self defeating. Now I sow the special seeds first (keeping some in reserve if the sowing method doesn't work). the saying "use it or lose it" applies for sees. Germination decreases with time, so I sow seeds as quickly as possible.

It isn't a good idea to keep seeds or bulbs your kitchen refrigerator unless they are sealed in glass jars. Aging veggies and fruits give off chemicals that can impair germination. A separate little fridge just for bulbs would be handy if you have the space - especially if you like winter forcing bulbs. Refrigerators can become humid, so you would want to check the humidity of the refrigerator.

I have only had trouble with bugs or mold in seeds while they dried. I had aphids in lettuce seed a few years ago. I didn't want to lose the seed, so I put it in the freezer in a jar for a couple of weeks, sifted the seeds and put them back in the freezer until I sowed them. I am allergic to mold. If seeds mold, I throw them outside. Eliminating the chaff as soon as feasible and letting the seeds dry thoroughly limit these problems. I haven't gotten any bugs or mold in swap seeds.

Open pollinated seeds that may have crossed

I don't mind open pollinated seeds from desirable plants. I label my seeds open pollinated. I also label if they are commercial, garden, swap or second generation seeds.. I try to research if they are hybrid or heirloom seeds. Part of the fun sowing swapped seeds is the surprises!

Winston and I came inside for a break. I have to take a dose of my new thyroid medicine at 3 pm on an empty stomach. It is taking a while to get used to the- a new routine. Winston thinks he should have a snack or that I should start dinner early - like now!! He still has dry food in his bowl, but he wants his special cooked food. Besides, he doesn't like the Rachel Ray grain free food. He prefers Nature's Balance Buffalo or Salmon grain free food from Walmart! (Both of these foods are similar quality to the grain free foods in the pet store, but less expensive per pound. I don't buy $20+ a pound dog food when chicken thighs are $0.69 a pound on sale! Winston doesn't mind. I can buy prime rib for around $8-10 a pound and give him the bone. We would both be happy with that.)

Winston has his paws on the edge of my desk "talking" to me. Maybe I should move his dinner time to 3pm from 5pm so that he can remind me when it is time to take my thyroid medicine. Otherwise, he will continue fussing until after 5pm when I feed him. He isn't starving, he just looks forward to dinner time. Le petit gourmand.

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