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storing vegetable seeds

Storing Vegetable Seeds for Long Term Storage

Contrary to what you might assume, if properly cared for, high quality vegetable seeds have an amazingly long storage life. What many people do not realize is that in nature, the seed is designed to remain viable until the conditions of the soil and weather are ideal for germination.

fresh high quality vegetable seedsIn desert conditions, one can find a good many species of wildflowers that only appear in that environment on the very rare occasions that soil conditions are ideal for them to grow and reproduce. These gorgeous little flowers grow, bloom and then drop new seeds whenever the soil is moist enough to sustain life. Typically, these conditions exist only during flash floods which are a rarity in those climates. In deserts, millions of viable plant seeds can be found distributed in the soil where they await the precious water that prompts germination. Recent research has indicated that in deserts, seeds may remain in the soil for as long as 70 to 100 years until conditions are such that they may germinate and this often results in huge blankets of flowers.

There's also a bit of a lesson here for those of you who intend to garden in desert climates and that is to water your plot thoroughly before you begin digging it up to encourage those wildflower (otherwise known as a weed) seeds to germinate before you put your plants in and then till the whole thing up before the weeds put on seed heads. This will save you a lot of back-breaking weeding that might damage your established plants!

So just how long do seeds remain viable anyway? To be honest, there is really no definable limit, as was recently proven in Israel with the successful germination in 2005 of a 2000 year old seed of the extinct Judean Date Palm that came from an archeological dig at King Herod's palace near the Dead Sea. In 1978, a 1200 year old Lotus seed discovered in a dry lakebed in China was also successfully germinated, which prior to the Date Palm was the world's oldest successfully germinated seed. More recently, the Millennium Seed Bank successfully germinated three species of plants from 200+ year old seeds. 

In the realm of vegetable seeds, reports of 25 to 50 year old seeds germinating are quite common place and it was reported that during World War 2, cabbage and other Brassica seed that was hundreds of years old were successfully germinating after a seed repository was bombed by Germany's Luftwaffe. Needless to say, although the germination rate of seed does decline as time passes (and different crops decline at different rates), seed still has a remarkable vitality.

To store seeds properly, the essential goal is to place the seed into a set of conditions that are the polar opposite of what is required to germinate the seed. For proper germination, for the most part, seeds require moisture and warmth. (Some species also require light and other conditions. Humidity also plays a role). Needless to say, to store seeds, a cool, dry place with little to no humidity is always best.

For good results, simply take your packets and wrap them in a brown paper bag, date the package and pop them in your freezer.

To insure even longer seed life, remove your seed from their packets and dry the seed at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour to lower its moisture content below 8%. This can be done in your oven or a food dehydrator (do NOT use a microwave oven as this will irradiate the seed!). Allow the seed to cool and pack the seed into glass vials, label them and store in your freezer.

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