Letter Re: Do You Know Where Your Gardening Seed Comes From?

I have a question concerning heirloom seeds. My question is how long can a seed be stored in ideal conditions and still produce a viable plant? I am currently not at a position of having more then a very small garden, but I would like the security of a stockpile of seeds stored with me in case I need them in the future. what is a realistic storage time frame? and also what would be considered an ideal storing environment? Once the plants are harvested what is the best way to remove and prepare the new seeds from the plants for storage? I live in Wyoming so I am mostly concerned with plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, Etc. Due to the short growing season here. Thanks in advance for your time. – Brian

The Memsahib Replies: One excellent source of heirloom seeds is Dr. Geri Guidetti of The Ark Institute. Another is The Seed Savers Exchange (see: http://www.seedsavers.org.) Again, it is important to order heirloom seeds–not patented hybrid seeds. The best place to store your seeds is in sealed containers (such as Mason jars), in your refrigerator. The germination rate starts to drop off rapidly past two years of storage, but you can still get halfway decent yields out of seed that has been refrigerated for four or even five years. Beyond that, that buy a fresh stock of seeds. It would take a book to describe how collect and re-use the various types of heirloom seeds, so let me recommend one: I HIGHLY recommend that you buy a copy of “Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth.(ISBN 978-1-882424-58-0.) The knowledge on seed saving that is packed between those covers goes far beyond my own!  For the climate in Wyoming, you will need to build a greenhouse, or at least cold frames to get a head start on sprouting your seedlings.