Seed Viability Part One

Have you put your seeds to bed? I need to. The last couple of years I’ve just put them in the pantry where it is cool and said “Goodnight” I didn’t even tuck them in or kiss them. What a neglectful mother I’ve been. 

Studies have shown that seeds kept in cold storage will last ten times longer than those stored at room temperature. Just for reference, seed vaults store theirs at minus 18°Celsius (minus 0.4°Fahrenheit) in specially-designed four-ply foil packages that are placed in sealed boxes and stored on shelves.


(I rubber band the packages that are alike, different kinds of beets or peas etc. for convenience of sorting.)


Seeds are not cheap and I expect the prices to rise as crop failures increase. If you thought of seeds as your life line to food then you’d see that they are an investment for your future. Your seeds hold the genetic traits of nutrition, storage abilities, strength, and characteristics that make them best suited to your garden. Especially important are the seeds that you have saved from your own garden. It is a survival of the fittest scenario. The ones you choose are those that do best in your soil and climate. They deserve better and I am going to repent and be a better mama.

 I tried my refrigerator one year to store seeds but now I have so many  there wouldn’t be much room for fresh foods. An…d with four girls that conduct staring contests with the fridge to see which blinks first, the temperature raises quickly.


(This is how I store in my pantry for the seeds that we eat. I’m not longer growing this type as I’ve only had one good year with them.)

So I switched to putting them in large pickle jars, not the girls silly, the seeds because glass jars are less porous than plastic and don’t allow as much humidity and air to pass through. You could do plastic and glass to be double sure. I use large pickle jars because they are free and donated. Oh…., and don’t put the seeds in the same freezer you store Popsicle, you know what will happen. Hm… ‘grape, or cherry, or maybe I want lime’.”Don’t close the freezer, I want one!” Luckily we have more than one freezer and I leave the popcycle buying to the most part to their mom.

Before you can begin an effective storage system you need to known if the date on the seed packet is the date which the seed was packaged for sale or grown. The larger companies often don’t put a date on the package at all. But what you don’t ever have is the experts opinion date of how long the seeds should last with at least 75% germination rate if kept in cool storage. It’s why I date my packages myself.


I buy from small companies but beware that large companies’ seeds can sit for a few years before going up for sale. Even though the government has regulations on how viable each type of seed is suppose to be before being put up for sale, they give a viability margin to coddle the large companies so they can stay in business. I get that, but the seeds I wish to buy have to measure up to a higher standard. They will become the foundation for plants to come for many years. Shortly in the future, they will be part of our survival, health, and financial well being, not just a tasty morsel come summer. Besides, a seed package just became more expensive when fewer seeds will sprout.

I’ve had better success from smaller companies. The really small companies don’t have the storage capacity and therefor must package that fall for sell the next year. There is a smaller selection so fewer customers which means they need to keep them happy to stay in business. The larger but not LARGE companies I order from test their seeds every 4 to 6 months to check germination rates.



  • Research the policies of where you buy your seeds from.
  • Store and label your seeds properly.
  • Do not leave your seeds out in the sun to heat up when you are planting. It does not take long under exposure and humidity for them to lose the ability to germinate quickly.
  • Do your own home viability seed test. I’ll tell you how in another post coming up. I’m getting ready to do all my seeds before ordering because I’ve been a bad mama.

Put simply, be a good mama, put your seeds to bed, kiss them goodnight, label how long they should sleep at most, and watch the clock. Keep the temperatures cool so they stay comfortable and test viability yourself. Seeds cost and a loss of a crop means a financial and health deficit for us. We don’t live where there are commercial food crops grown, unless you like hay. Moo…!!! With there being a global food shortage right now and that includes seeds, cost are expected to rise as well as availability. I’m going to take extra caution and get my seeds ordered right after Christmas and be an avid seed saver this summer. Yes, I’m going to be a much better mama.







3 thoughts on “Seed Viability Part One

  1. Valerie

    Like you, I have been trying to determine the best way to store my seeds. I read on one site that you should keep them in a vacuum sealed package. Then another site said that vacuum sealing would kill the seed. One site said they should be kept in the freezer, while another site said that would destroy them. It is so hard to get good information. I look at it this way, way back when, they didn’t have freezers or vacuum sealers. They kept them in jars in the barn or the house. It seems to have worked, we still have seeds for plants. Mother nature just drops them on the ground and they grow the next year. Some of the best tomatoes I ever grew, were ones that had self seeded themselves and grew the next year. I keep thinking I will do a bed of tomatoes that way one year. Just let a few tomatoes drop and grow the next year. Then separate them out and move the plants so they have enough room.


    1. The seed vaults use several polymer bags and store at cold cold temperatures. I’ve found if I use more than one plastic package and then store in glass, which leaks less moisture than plastic, in the freezer they do quite well. Then again I’m not storing for 50 years or more. All other storage options have too much change in temperature for reliability at my place. The best plan will actually be a seed saving plan where I grow on a schedule while paying attention to the weather. I’m going to limit more of the types of seeds I grow which is now four kinds of squash for instance and I’ll whittle that down in order to better manage this. I’m learning to do more with what I have. I don’t need so many different varieties. I see I need to simplify.


  2. Keeping seeds from year to year is not often a problem. Most are designed to last that long anyway. I am amazed at how long some that are forgotten about last. Even though I know some stay viable for decades or centuries, I do not expect it from seed as transient as vegetable seeds.


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