Storing Survival Garden Seeds

Storing Survival Garden Seeds

Storing survival garden seeds... along with growing an emergency garden, is of up-most importance for emergency preparedness or a food shortage crisis. As the value of money decreases, the value of food and vegetable seeds will increase along with basic commodities and precious metals.

Vegetable seeds are a major food-source, and should be considered one of the most valuable commodities of all for emergency and survival preparedness!

Essential Seed Storage Conditions

Conditions essential for properly storing survival garden seeds are just the opposite of those required for good germination. Good germination occurs when water and oxygen are present at a favorable temperature.

Best seed storage results are obtained when seeds are kept dry (below 8 percent moisture - 4 percent is optimal) and the temperature is kept low (40 degrees or below).

Storing your seeds properly will achieve the longest life possible. Remember these important factors when storing survival garden seeds:

  1. Constant cool to cold temperature (40 degrees or below)
  2. Dark place - never in sunlight
  3. Keep in moisture-proof containers
  4. The drier the seeds are - the longer they will store

Drying Your Home Harvested Garden Seeds

A 10-year storage life (or more) can be achieved by drying seed to less than 8 percent moisture. To do so, dry seeds at 100 degrees F for six hours. You may do this by - drying your seeds in the sun, with a food dehydrator, or by using a conventional oven. Never use a microwave oven.

  • Using The Sun: Spread the seed out in the sunlight, use a thermometer, try to obtain 100 degree temperature for 6 hours.
    Because sunlight is harsh and can easily exceed this temperature, drying in the shade may be a better option if the outside air temperature is approx. 100 degrees.
  • Food dehydrator: Keep dehydrator setting at 100 degrees F for six hours.
  • Conventional oven: Keep the oven door open several inches, and make sure the seed is not heated to more than 100 degrees for 6 hours.

Test To See If Seeds Are Dry Enough To Store:

These 2 simple methods are a easy way to tell if the seeds have been dried to a proper moisture level of around 8 percent or less.

  1. Longer seeds should snap smartly and cleanly in half when bent.
  2. Wheat, beans, peas, corn and other large seeds should shatter and turn to powder when hit with the head of a hammer.

Once seeds are completely dry, place them in airtight moisture-proof storage containers. Sealed cans or jars, are better for seed storage than plastic bags. A moisture-proof container is one that stores seed safely while submerged in water.

Mark the containers with the seed names and date, then store them in a cool dark place. If possible, a refrigerator or freezer is an excellent environment for storing survival garden seeds.

Storing Survival Garden Seeds - Home Harvested

Seeds from many plants can remain VIABLE for years if properly stored at cool - to frozen - temperatures. However, it is best to use most of your home-harvested seed the following growing season. A good emergency preparedness practice is NOT planting all of your seed... save some of each harvested seed variety so that you always have extra emergency garden seed on hand to plant and replace with the next seasons harvest.

Before Planting - Check Germination Rate

Planting Survial Garden Seeds

Before planting your stored vegetable seed, it is a good idea to check the seed for its germination rate. Planting these seeds directly in the garden may be a waste of time and effort if germination rate is very low.

To check germination rate, place some of the seeds between paper towels that are kept constantly moist (not soaked or seed will mold) and between 65 and 70 degrees F.

Check the seeds daily for germination. If the germination rate is 70% or less, it would be best to use the newest seed you have dried and/or stored, otherwise you will need to buy new survival seed (non-hybrid/heirloom) to replace the seed that has low germination.

NOTE: For this germination test [wheat, bean, pea, and corn] seeds need to be soaked overnight in a bowl of room temperature water prior to testing.

An issue that can be confusing when it comes time to plant your emergency garden is whether to use NON-hybrid or hybrid seed. Non-hybrid seed comes back as the same variety from year to year; whereas seed from hybrid plants will either be sterile and won't grow at all, or not come back as the same variety when replanted.

It is always best to use NON-hybrid seed when planting your emergency vegetable garden.

Common Questions About Sealed Packaging, Oxygen, and Seed Storage

Do vegetable seeds require air (oxygen) to keep them from becoming dead food?

Research from the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado (our official national seed bank) shows - for a majority of seeds, grains, or beans whether stored in air, CO2, N2, or vacuum sealed. If sufficiently dried, all of these seeds are effectively dormant to the point that the surrounding gas/air mix, or lack thereof, is insignificant to storage.   If deprived of oxygen, will the foods sprout or grow after a few years?

Also, according to the National Seed Storage Laboratory, research shows - no measurable difference in seed/grain viability, which is the ability for the seed to grow after storage.
  Additional information on oxygen and storing survival garden seeds

The following research data was prepared by the Science and Education Administration's Federal Research Staff, which was formerly the Agricultural Research Service:

Research data shows that regardless of the kind of seeds, or the atmosphere in the sealed container, adequately dried seeds (4 percent moisture) retained their germination reasonably well during 8 years of storage at 89.6°F (32°C). If stored at cooler temperatures 40 degrees or lower, the germination rate remains good for much longer periods.

Summary On Storing Survival Garden Seeds

It is obvious from the data that seed moisture content at the time of sealing has a far greater effect on seed longevity than does the surrounding atmosphere or lack of oxygen.

  • Seeds must be dried to the proper moisture content to become effectively dormant,
  • they must be kept in a dark place,
  • and they must be stored at cooler temperatures for optimal storage longevity.

Your survival garden's success depends in part on the quality of seeds planted. Ensure good quality by storing survival garden seeds properly, or by planting seed purchased from a reputable seed company.


Purchasing Survival Seeds

Several great companies market vacuum-packed, long term vegetable seed, packaged in Mylar foil bags or #10 sealed cans, (we list several in the right column of this page). If these are kept cool or frozen, they may last for up to twenty years. However, it is wise to use the seed more frequently than this when ever possible.


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Storing Survival Garden Seed Page Credits:
(http://www.hcs.ohio-state.edu/mg/manual/prop.htm)
(http://extension.usu.edu/cache/files/uploads/StoringSeeds.pdf)
(http://www.ext.colostate.edu/Pubs/Garden/07221.html)