How to Properly Store Heirloom Seeds

Overview

Heirloom vegetables are prized for the history of the plant and because they usually produce quality seeds that are true to the plant they are harvested from. Heirloom varieties are non-hybrid seeds, meaning they have not been crossed with other similar plant varieties. Saving and storing heirloom seeds ensures you can continue to plant your favorite plants, year after year. Proper storage ensures the seeds remain viable and the maximum amount of germinate come planting time.

Step 1

Harvest the seeds when the fruit has ripened completely on the plant or vine. For leaf crops, allow the plants to produce a flower stalk and harvest the seeds after flowering. Harvest legumes and fruiting vegetables once the fruit has fully matured or the pod has dried out.

Step 2

Remove the seeds from the pod, fruit or seed head on the stalk. Spread them out on paper towels in a single layer.

Step 3

Place the seeds in well-ventilated place at room temperature. Allow them to dry for two weeks in this place.

Step 4

Fill a small cloth bag with ½ cup powdered milk. Place the bag in a jar that has a tight -fitting lid. The milk absorbs excess moisture in the jar.

Step 5

Place the dried seeds into an envelope and write the plant variety and year harvested on the outside. Place the envelope in the jar with the powdered milk and screw the lid on tightly.

Step 6

Place the jar in a cool, dry place for storage. Store in the refrigerator if you need to save the seeds for more than three or four months.

Tips and Warnings

  • Check the jar for condensation regularly. If present, remove the seeds and dry them again for two weeks then return to storage. Moisture will cause the seeds to rot. Be aware that squash and some other plants tend to cross-breed and produce inferior seeds. Plant only one squash variety each year or space differing varieties at least 50 feet apart.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towels
  • Cloth bags
  • Powdered milk
  • Jar
  • Envelope

References

  • Clemson University Extension: Heirloom Vegetables
Keywords: seed saving, storing heirloom seeds, harvesting seeds for storage

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.