As I mentioned earlier, the seed from 2006 didn’t fare so well. I stored my seeds in what I thought was an okay spot– in a cigar box in the top drawer of a dresser in my bedroom. Turns out, this wasn’t the best spot, and for a few key reasons.
According to Suzanne Ashworth in her essential book Seed to Seed: Seed Saving & Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, seeds should be stored an airtight location where there is a constant temperature and humidity. Ashworth says that “as a rule of thumb, the sum of the temperature (degrees F.) and relative humidity should not exceed 100” (29).
My seeds definitely didn’t have these conditions. They were not in airtight storage, and both the temperature and humidity fluctuated greatly over the year they were in the drawer. So what will I do differently next time?
I’ll use mason jars to hold my seed envelopes. That will provide an air tight seal. Then I’ll store the jar in a cool, dark and dry place where the temperature remains constant. Root cellars are ideal, but lacking one, I’ll probably put them on the floor in one of my storage closets.
Ashworth also says that for longer term storage, seeds can be frozen. The trick to maintaining viability in frozen seeds is reducing their moisture content to below 8% before freezing. You can do this by placing the seed envelopes in a mason jar with about half a pound of silica gel, which will absorb the excess moisture from the jar. It takes about a week, and you’ll know when the seeds are “done” because the silica gel will turn from dark blue to pink, indicating that is absorbed moisture. Then, transfer the seeds to a new jar (quickly, to reduce exposure to moisture) without silica gel and place in the freezer.
Ashworth’s book has much more detailed information regarding the processes described above, and I would recommend it for anyone saving seed from year to year, especially those who are growing their own seed at home.