Seeds: Use ’em or Lose ’em

I went through all my old seed packs today–everything from before 2009, and all that seed is going in the compost.

As wet as it has been this year, and as damp as it’s been in my basement, I just don’t trust the germination on anything older than that.  I’ve already had a few problems with low germination this year, and I don’t want to continue that trend into next year.

I do keep seeds in sealed tin boxes with several silica gel packs in each, and I refresh (dry in the oven) the packs every six months or so, but this spring, I pulled out some seed packs, and they felt dampish.

That’s a bad sign.  Cool and dry is the best situation for seeds.  Damp–no matter what the temperature–is bad news.

Considering that I typically have a couple hundred dollars’ worth of seed at any given time (purchased and saved), and I also work on developing a few strains of my own, I can’t afford to have it stored in less-than-favorable conditions.

So, I spent about that much on a 50-pint dehumidifier for my basement, which has been running pretty much non-stop (except for when the bucket’s full) ever since.  It is noticeably drier in the basement, but it was obviously pretty darn damp before because the thing’s set on 50% humidity, and it hasn’t reached that shut-off point.

Ideally, it should be even drier than that–Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed recommends that the total of the combined relative humidity and temperature (in Fahrenheit) should not exceed 100, and I know it’s above 50 degrees in my basement.

If we continue to have damp conditions here, even in the “dry season” of summer (and as I type this, it has started raining again), I will likely start drying down the seeds in bulk silica gel beads and storing them in airtight glass in the big basement freezer, as recommended in Seed to Seed.

Otherwise, I’m going to make a better attempt to grow out what I’m saving and purchasing by the year after I’ve collected or received it, just to be safe.  Anything I can’t use in that second year can be donated to make sure it gets used.

In my paring down, I found a few seeds that were collected as long ago as 2003 (only a couple–some burr oak acorns and prickly poppy seed from Crazy Horse Canyon and the Sand Hills), and some saved seed from 2005 as well.

When I save tomato seed, I tend to save a fairly large quantity of each variety, so quite a few older packs of that got composted.  I had known that a number of varieties were going to need renewing/saving this year, but I will focus first on the ones that might be harder to find in seed catalogs and make use of the freezer for back-up supplies.

Well, I don’t hear the dehumidifier running, so I’d better go check the bucket again.


One response to this post.

  1. I keep my leftover seeds in the back of the fridge in an airtight container. That keeps them cool and dry, though I don’t keep anything much more than 2 seasons regardless.
    The weather has been really wet in central IL this year, and my basement dehumidifier hasn’t shut off much either! Can you hook a hose up to yours so that it drains right into a floor drain? The layout of my basement doesn’t let me do that, so like you I have to dump mine every day. But it might be an option for you.
    I always enjoy your posts…keep up the good work!

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