Collecting and Storing Seeds for Future Use Explained

How To Collect And Store Seeds For Future Use

Collecting and storing seeds is an effective way to ensure a continuous supply of your favorite plants. The process involves carefully harvesting mature seeds from plants, thoroughly drying them, and storing them in airtight containers in cool, dark conditions. Proper labeling is essential, including the plant name, collection date, and any additional relevant information. Different types of plants may require specific collection methods, such as allowing herb seeds to dry on the stem or separating fruit seeds from pulp before drying.

When stored correctly, most seeds can remain viable for several years, though longevity varies by plant type. Refrigeration or freezing can extend seed viability.

Key Takeaways

  • Allow seeds to mature fully on the plant before harvesting
  • Dry seeds thoroughly in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight
  • Clean seeds by removing debris before storage
  • Store seeds in airtight containers with clear labels
  • Keep stored seeds in a cool, dark place like a refrigerator or freezer
  • Different plants may require specific collection methods (e.g., herbs vs. fruits)
  • Some seeds, like tomatoes, may need special preparation such as fermentation
  • Proper labeling is crucial for identifying seeds later
  • Most seeds can remain viable for 1-4 years when stored correctly
  • Consider maintaining a seed inventory log for better organization


How to collect seeds from your garden will depend on the type of food plant it is. Herbs, legumes, and vegetables will flower, and from the flower is where the seeds will form, making the seed-saving process easy and the seeds will dry out the fastest.

When harvesting seeds from herbs, it is best to make your cut several inches below the seeds so you have something to hold. Place the cutting in a paper bag with the seed heads facing down and allow it to dry.

When the seedpods have opened slightly, lift the cutting and shake it to release the seeds. Most vegetable seeds will also be harvested this way for seed saving. Legumes will come in a seedpod that needs to ripen on the vine and should be removed from the plant when the pod starts to turn brown.

The seeds in the pods can be heard rattling when shaken and will need about two weeks to dry out before the beans can be shelled for storage. Fruits, for the most part, form their seeds inside the fruit, making their drying process take longer than vegetables for seed saving.

To harvest their seeds, the fruit needs to be fully mature, then it can be removed from the plant and opened. The seeds will need to be separated from the meat or pulp of the fruit and placed on a paper towel or cloth towel.

Then use another paper towel or fold the cloth towel in half and pat the seeds to remove any moisture on the outside of the seed before drying. Place the seeds on a clean flat surface such as a large baking sheet, making sure that the seeds are not on top of each other to dry properly.

It’s important to note that some types of seeds, such as tomato seeds, may require additional preparation like fermentation before drying and storing. Tomato seeds often need to be fermented to remove the gelatinous coating, which can inhibit germination.

Be sure to research any special preparation requirements for the specific plant varieties you’re collecting seeds from. For optimal seed longevity, it’s recommended to store seeds at temperatures between 32°F and 41°F (0°C to 5°C). Maintaining seeds within this temperature range in the refrigerator or freezer will help preserve their viability for longer periods.

Make sure to label the seeds or draw the baking sheet on a piece of paper, draw a circle to show each group of seeds, and write the plant variety name in the center of each circle as you place them on the baking sheet for drying.

Related: How To Start Seeds Indoors? A Comprehensive Guide


For seeds to germinate, they need a proper amount of moisture, sunlight, and warmth, therefore, when storing seeds, they need the opposite conditions – low moisture, dark, and cool temperatures.

The first step in proper seed storage is to thoroughly dry them out. To do this, they should be placed in a container that is big enough for them to spread out without piling on top of each other.

To speed up the drying process, you can use a fan blowing air on the seeds, but the amount of time it will take to fully dry out a seed will depend on its size.

After the seeds have been properly dried, I prefer to place them in a vacuum-sealed seed storage bag or airtight container with a desiccant pack to help prevent any moisture from getting to the seeds.

When the vacuum-sealed bags or containers have been properly sealed, then I like to place them in another larger vacuum-sealed bag or container that will hold all of the vegetable seeds together, one for fruits, one for herbs, and one for legumes or beans.

This seed organization method will help ensure that the seeds don’t absorb any moisture and is a good way to store the seeds because when planting herbs, for example, you can grab the bag labeled “herbs” and find the seeds you want to plant.

After the seeds have been protected from moisture, they will need to be stored in a cool, dark environment, and I prefer to use my refrigerator because they will be kept cool and away from any light.

If you want to store seeds for more than one year, then it is highly recommended to store them in a freezer for extended seed longevity.

When stored properly with low moisture and cool temperatures, most seeds can maintain their viability for a certain period. As a general guideline, most vegetable seeds can be stored for 1-2 years, while some flower seeds may last 3-4 years or longer.

However, it’s always best to check the specific germination rates and recommended shelf life for the plant varieties you’re storing, as seed longevity can vary.


Proper labeling is a must when storing seeds to ensure you can easily identify them when it’s time for planting. Without clear labels, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the varieties or know when the seeds were collected for germination testing later. Here are some tips for effective seed labeling.

  • Label Information – At a minimum, each seed packet or bag should be labeled with the plant variety name, the date of collection, and the year. This basic information will help you keep track of what you have stored and when the seeds were harvested.
  • Additional Details – Depending on your needs, you may want to include additional details on your seed labels, such as.
    • Plant type (vegetable, fruit, herb, flower)
    • Variety characteristics (color, size, days to maturity)
    • Source (if the seeds were purchased or gifted)
    • Growing notes (ideal conditions, spacing requirements, etc.)
  • Labeling Materials – Use materials that will withstand storage conditions without fading or deteriorating. Permanent markers, waterproof labels, or seed envelopes with built-in labeling areas work well.
  • Organization – Develop a system for organizing your stored seeds, such as separating them by plant type or alphabetizing varieties. This will make it easier to locate specific seeds when you need them.
  • Record Keeping – When labeling individual seed packets, consider maintaining a seed inventory log or spreadsheet. This can help you track quantities, germination rates, and other useful information over multiple growing seasons.
  • Label Placement – If using bags or envelopes, place the label in a consistent location (e.g., the top corner) to make it easy to identify the contents at a glance.

You may also like:

How To Start Seeds Indoors: A Comprehensive Guide

How To Use Seed Starting Trays And Jiffy Pots

Source: Saving vegetable seeds | UMN Extension

Joel Simon

As a kid, Joel found enjoyment in caring for the many houseplants he grew up with, learning how to transplant them safely, cloning them, and more. At about the age of 10, he wanted to see if he could sprout an orange seed from a store-bought orange and ended up using it as a science experiment in a school project. Throughout the many years of gardening, he has helped many friends and family set up their food and botanical gardens. After years of caring for plants, he was talking with other gardeners and discovering old methods of farming and botanical gardening. Joel has decided to share his knowledge for others to enjoy as he has for many years.

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