Seed Storage I: Wallpaper Seed Packets

Fall is in the air already, and I’m starting to think about gathering seeds from the garden to package and squirrel away. Why in the world would you want to store seeds? After all, by January, every “big box” store, grocery store, and hardware store sells rack after rack of inexpensive seeds. So why collect and store seeds from your own garden? For one thing, some seeds that are special to you may be tender and will disintegrate in the ground over the winter if you don’t collect and store them. I grow some cottage garden marigolds, which are not cold tolerant, so I gather their seeds every fall, store them, and then germinate them indoors every spring. I would lose this tender annual if I didn’t gather and store the seeds, and it would not be easy to replace them. And seeds from so-called heirloom vegetables can be gathered, dried, and stored. I will be saving seeds from an heirloom tomato and from the asparagus beans I grew this summer.

And, as inexpensive as most seeds are, why buy them when you can save them, and opt out of the commercial loop altogether? Many gardeners are so used to buying that we forget we can maintain our own non-hybrid seeds supply. Nature is quite willing to hand you her riches, free of charge.

You may also want to share your seeds with fellow gardeners as gifts. I like to package up some of the marigold seeds to hand out, as well as four o’clock and poppy seeds. I love getting such seeds from fellow gardeners, especially seeds with a family history.

Seed storage can be a complex subject, but the seeds I am referring to here are, for lack of a better description, ordinary garden stalwarts, and as long as they are stored in a cool, dry place, will be fine. A quick tour of the Internet will show more exacting standards for unusual seeds.

How do you know when seeds are ready to be gathered? The following poetical incantation should help:

The flowers will have faded.
The petals sadly fallen.
And the seeds that shatter at your touch
are all that is left of Summer’s
beautiful celebration.

Keep in mind that fall is not the only time to gather seeds. Once a plant has flowered, it goes to seed. A spring-flowering perennial such as columbine will often have seeds to be gathered by mid-June. I have also collected seeds from hostas and germinated them. This is fun, because you never know what you’ll get.

Our first way to store seeds is a rather fancy one, in wallpaper seed packets.

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