The good thing is you just don’t hear a lot about zombies in the garden. I do however hear a lot of people wanting to harvest garden seeds for future use. The reasons for saving seeds range from preparing for the zombie apocalypse to curiosity. Whatever the reason, there are very specific things that must be done to be successful at saving and storing seeds.
The first thing you need to know is that you can save seeds from almost any crop. This includes hybrid plants. Seeds harvested from hybrid plants will produce one of the varieties that was used to make the hybrid. Seeds from an heirloom plant will produce an identical (true) plant. With some crops like okra, beans and peas it makes no difference for they will all produce true plants. If you are saving seeds in case of zombies look to the high yield crops like bean and okra. These also work well if you are the curious type due to the forgiving nature of the seed.
Seeds must be harvested at the correct time depending on the crop. Crops like tomatoes need to have the fruit fully ripen on the vine before harvesting the seeds. Okra should be left on the plant until the pods are dry. Processing methods for seed also varies depending on the crop. Some need to be washed, but all seeds need to be dried. Investigate proper procedures and options for your specific crop.
Storing the harvested seeds is the last step. Seed life varies tremendously depending on the type of seed and storage conditions. The lettuce seeds in the paper package on the kitchen counter are good for about a year before the germination rate drops drastically. Then there is the “Methuselah” tree. It was germinated in 2005 from seeds that were found in 1963 where they had been stored since 70 A.D. This is the rule of thumb that I learned for storing seeds: “the total of adding the stored temperature and humidity numbers together should be less than 100”. Zip lock baggies, Masson jars and packets of desiccant will take care of most of the humidity issues. Keeping stored seeds cool can be the challenge. Root cellars make the best sense until to attempt to dig a hole in our black dirt on top of the white rock. That brings us to the fridge. Refrigerators work well as long as the humidity stays low. The long term storage goal is humidity below 8 percent and temperature 40 degrees or less.
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