Sunday, November 06, 2011

Seed: sorting, saving and storing

At this time of year when the dark nights are drawing in, the logs are burning bright and shutters closed, the opportunity to review the seed stock box is welcomed. As with most of us who grow their own food, saving seed and ensuring a healthy and adequate stock is an important and necessary task. Like most, we have a few packs of commercial seed, some collected from our own crops and some kindly swapped with friends and neighbours.

Inevitably, the commercial seed stock runs out of date from time to time so we try to ensure it is used as soon as possible but if it runs over by a few months then it is still used and rarely fails to produce healthy seedlings. Bear in mind though, some seeds do deteriorate over time no matter how you store them. Parsnips and cucumbers have performed poor for us if kept for longer than a year. All the seeds we collect from plants are naturally and thoroughly dried, harvested as required and stored in recycled envelopes. These in turn are kept in a dry wooden chest which helps to keep the seeds cool and dark.

Anyone with further advice or tips on seed collection and storage, please leave a message in the comments and don't forget to subscribe to the blog for updates.


Today we have sown sugar snap peas and mange tout which if grow well will be ready for harvesting in early April. Lambs lettuce and little gem lettuce seeds have been put to one side ready for sowing in the next few days therefore ensuring an early salad crop to follow on from the winter lettuce.

We are currently compiling a list of seeds we need to re-stock over the coming months and thse will either be sourced commercially or from fellow growers.

The chest we use for storing seed was picked up from a market stall a few years ago. Made of pine it was grubby and covered in paint. Stripped and polished, lined with cuttings from magazines and seed catalogues and handles attached to the ends, it makes an ideal container for our seed collection.

If you have a few moments have a look at this Ted Talk film about pollination, absolutely stunning:


  1. I always keep my seeds in the door of the fridge placed inside ziplock bags. The smaller the seed the longer you are able to get them germinating, peas and beans are not so good if kept. I always pre-germinate larger seeds, saves on compost or effort of planting if they are not viable. Parsnips I would always give a week or more in the freezer part of the fridge before planting, works every time.

  2. I must try the freezer tip for parsnips, ours come up about 1:100. Not a good strike rate. Down in the southern hemisphere I have just put out tomato plants, potatoes are coming up as are rhubarb and strawberries beginning to ripen :)

  3. I chit many seeds, especially tomatoes, parsnips and peppers, many brassicas too- they seem to start quicker, and you only sow those that are growing!


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