Money isn’t the only thing people are hoarding right now; they are also stashing seeds as a hedge against future famine.
According to Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist for Cache County, there are several steps to successful seed storage. These include finding a proper storage area, purchasing the correct seeds and learning how to start seeds indoors and in the garden.
“The most important factors in determining how long vegetable seeds can be stored are the temperature and humidity level,” Beddes said. “Cooler temperatures and low humidity encourage longer shelf life. Several companies are starting to sell vacuum-packed seed, which, if kept frozen, may last for up to 20 years. It is wise, though, to use the seed well within that time frame.”
Another aspect to consider is if it is worth harvesting seed from garden plants, he said. This was done in the past when seed was not readily available from stores. However, in current times, it is easier and more time efficient to buy extra seed and store it. Knowing when to harvest the seed and how to clean it and separate it from the plant can be challenging.
It can also be confusing whether to use open-pollinated or hybrid seed, Beddes said. Open-pollinated seeds come back as the same variety from year to year, whereas seeds from hybrid plants will either be sterile or not come back as the same variety when replanted. Some advantages to hybrid plants are that they generally have higher yields and are more disease resistant. They are also the most common type of seed available at local garden centers.
A final thing to consider is timing seed planting to maximize the amount that can be produced, he said. In northern Utah, the first week of June is traditionally when warm-season crops can be placed in the garden. But if gardeners are not planning on purchasing transplants from the garden center, it is wise to know what can be sewn directly into the garden and what must be started earlier, such as many varieties of tomatoes and peppers.
“It isn’t hard to start seeds indoors,” Beddes concluded. “But gardeners should not wait for an emergency to learn to do so.”
By: Dennis Hinkamp - Mar. 3, 2009