Growing your own food is the first important step toward creating a more sustainable, local food source for your family. While growing the garden and enjoying the fruits of your labors is the most fun, to create a truly sustainable ‘closed loop’ at home, you have to grow food, collect and save seeds, and grow food from those seeds in the future. If you think growing tomatoes this year is exciting, imagine how much more exciting it will be when you grow tomatoes next season from tomato seeds that you saved yourself!
Seed saving doesn’t need to be a complicated matter. There are some basic steps that are easy for anyone to follow (even the kids!) and your seed collection will be safe and secure, ready for seed starting when you are.
As a general rule, most vegetable, herb, and other seeds can be saved for 1 year without much appreciable loss of germination or quality. Of course there are many seeds that can be saved for far longer, even as long as 10 years, provided the seeds are dried exceptionally well (less than 8 percent moisture). This is easily done by spreading clean, debris-free seeds in a single layer and letting them dry out naturally. 6 hours at 100 degrees will do the trick, but if your temps are lower you will need to leave them longer. While every seed type is different and conditions will affect the outcome, it is safe to assume that most seeds will remain fairly viable for 2-3 years.
I do not recommend drying seeds in direct sunlight; even on cooler days, the rays of the sun can raise the temperature too high and damage the viability of your precious seeds.
To store seeds, choose an airtight container that will ensure no moisture can reach the contents while in storage. As a rule, the drier and cooler the seeds, the better off they will be when it is time to germinate them again. Well-dried seeds that are kept at a temperature of about 40 degrees will be viable for several years.
Another factor that has to be considered in seed storage is the relative humidity where you live. The higher the humidity, the harder it will be to remove moisture from saved seeds. The less moisture you remove, the shorter the shelf life of the seeds.