Extra seed containers

New York, NY

I'm starting to do a little apartment gardening. When I buy seeds, no matter how small a packet, I have more than I need. So if I plant a half-dozen seeds, assuming that I'll get a couple of healthy plants, (a) how do I determine how long they will remain viable and (b) where should I keep them and (c) in what kind of container (little envelope, small pill vial, etc.)

Many thanks,

Cary, NC(Zone 7b)

I keep my seeds in this:

Small baggies - bought at Michael's Craftstore
Business Card holder- bought at Staples

Hope that helps. :o)

Thumbnail by rebecca30
Cary, NC(Zone 7b)

pic2 My garden notebook to record the year's progress and store my seeds easier in the front.

This message was edited Dec 9, 2007 12:51 AM

Thumbnail by rebecca30
New York, NY

That's great. Looks really organized.

I guess the important thing is that the seeds are kept dry, right?

I haven't been in Fuquay-Varina in decades, since I went to visit a buddy whose family lived in Goldsboro.

Cary, NC(Zone 7b)

Yep, keep them dry is the most important thing.

FV has grown quite a bit. But to me it's still a small town. :o))


Mount Vernon, MO(Zone 6b)

Rebecca - That is a great idea. I just have mine filed alphabetically in a plastic thing but if the dogs step in it or the cat lays on it then I have to refile. I'm going into Springfield today and I believe a stop at Staples or Office Depot will be on my to do list.

Southern, CA(Zone 8b)

I keep my seeds in old unused prescription containers, and just label them

Pleasant Hill, CA

We sort our dried seeds in different bags and others inside paper envelopes inside a photo box.

They are sorted alphabetically for quick reference. Hope this helps.

Here is a great way to REUSE all those darned payment envelopes that come in your autopayment statements and junk mailers sent with return (occasionally prepaid) envelopes. We label and store seeds inside the junk mail envelopes that would otherwise have to be thrown away when opening bills each month.

We have also sent back credit card applications inside their own mailing envelopes and asked to be taken off their mailing lists along with other junk mail with mailers. That way the junk mailers pay postage when being asked to remove us from there lists. I know that isn't a gardening tip, but it is our attempt at saving trees.

Wheeling, WV(Zone 6b)

I keep my seeds in old unused prescription containers, and just label them

I've done this and my seeds have gotten molded. What do you think I did wrong?o

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

I am starting to keep mine in the refrigerator. I put the whole commercial envelope in a see-thru ziploc sandwich bag and then they all get filed and refrigerated.

The reason for this is that seed I got from Swallowtail seeds said to do this, but the real proof was a bunch of old seed (2002 and some older) I got from Weezingreens. It ALL germinated and I know she reliably keeps her whole seed tote in the refrigerator.


Coos Bay, OR(Zone 9a)

I keep mine in a large (bread size) tupperware container that I bought at a garage sale. Then, I add any of those little capsules from shoes or other things that come from the Orient. (what doesn't?) Because they have silica gel in them which keeps things dry---right?? Then, I put the entire tupperware container in the garage fridge, much to the chagrin of my DH because he likes to store cheese and OJ and cheese and wine and cheese..... I have germinated seeds from years back with this method. I keep like seeds together with a rubber band and I try to always date on the package the last time I planted these seeds. It's just kind of a goofy method that works for me. Just had to respond to this thread because it is near and dear to my heart. Just hate wasting seed!!

Gilmer, TX(Zone 8a)

Ya'll are all so smart. You mean there is a better method then a bunch of seeds laying all over the couch and beside it?

Good to know!!

Marianna, FL(Zone 8b)

This will be my first year to try to save seeds, so I have a lot to learn. I, too, would like to know how long the seeds are viable; for example, extra pepper and annual flower seeds I bought this year.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

I use a baseball card album, something like rebecca's idea. I like it because I can page through it and easily see the seed packets and get different ideas for what to plant.

Now I should put it in the fridge for safekeeping.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

I use the plastic amber old perscription bottles and also paper envelopes. Then I put them in a cookie tin and in the fridge. I heard that if you use paper envelopes, put a little bag of dry milk in the tin.

If seeds are moldy, I don't think they were dried out well before packaging them. Again, they need to be put in the fridge. Some people put them in the freezer.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I have a bajillion seeds in little ziploc baggies, stuffed in a box. I keep them at room temperature. I thoroughly dry before storing they don't get moldy. Most last for years.


Parkersburg, WV

Last couple of years I have kept my seeds in paper envelopes. I go to dollar general or a dollar store and buy a box of cheap envelopes,then on an evening when I am setting watching TV, I cut envelopes in half from top to bottom. I leave a little flap on the envelope to use to reseal later with a cheap glue stik I buy from dollar store. I then put in my seeds, label outside with name, date, flower color and any other important info. I then keep an old shoe box or other sturdy box with a couple inches of rice, bought at dollar store, in bottom of box and place in our extra refridgerator setting in garage. You can make dividers so you can file seeds in alphabetical order.

Rice does same thing as little silica gel pacs mentioned above (wich is a wonderful way to reuse an item) by keeping moisture out of seeds.

If I have seeds I know I am planing on keeping for a few years I will place them in an old plastic container found in my wifes kitchen (make sure she is not watching you or is not at home for any of you guys) place seeds in container and seal shut and store in fridge. this will keep them from loosing too much moisture. I always pull out 10 or so seeds and place in a damp paper towel sealed in a plastic sandwich bag to see if most will germinate before planting. Then you can get an idea of how many you might need to plant to get results you are wanting.

Just my 2 cents. taj

Portland, OR(Zone 8a)

And don't forget that there is a seed trading forum here. I have gotten many seeds that I wanted by trading the extra seeds I have. I mean, how much parsley does an old guy need any given year?



Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

How long would you say is acceptable to dry seeds? This is my first year collecting, and I have several seed pods I've cleaned from my hibiscus plants. I've put them in a bowl with a piece of paper towel to hreelp absorb any moisture. It's been about a month now that I've been collecting them and letting them air dry in the house, though I keep adding to it when I see another seed pod ready to drop.

Also, I bought a bunch of resealable polybags from office depot to save them in, as well as send them to some friends/family/trading. Will these be okay to use? Or should I have gone with paper envelopes? I thought these were good because they have a white strip on the front where I can write the name of the seed and date it, and it wouldn't smear.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

The little ziploc baggies work well for me. I've been doing this for about 5 years. I tried the pill bottles for a short time but they take up too much space.

After removing from pods, I let seeds air dry for several weeks. I've never had any rot. A month is plenty of time. And most remain viable for years.


Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

Where do you get the little ziplock baggies?

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Someone once said Office Depot but I haven't been there yet. Might try Michael's craft store or another one also.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)


(Anita) Fort Wayne, IN(Zone 6a)

Office Depot has the small paper "coin" bags. The paper bags work better for me because the names of the seeds are easier to write and see. I have tons of both if you would like some.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

Thanks we have an Office Depot right around the corner.

Raleigh, NC(Zone 8a)

I got my little ziploc baggies at Office Depot. I was going to get the paper coin envelopes (about the size/shape of a business card), but they were so expensive. Here is a link to what I got at OD: http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/400651/Office-Depot-Brand-Reclosable-Bags-With/ ... though I don't think I paid as much as the website shows. Maybe they were on sale in the store or something.

Portland, OR(Zone 8a)

I use the paper coin bags because I feel better ecologically using paper rather than plastic and worry less about trapped moisture. Yeah, it hurt shelling out the money, but 500 of these little envelopes should last me the rest of my life. I have no regrets. Z

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Those ones @ OD are 3"x5", way bigger than I need. And $9 per 100!

I buy small ones at Walmart. I think they're $1 for 100.


Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Karen, what area of Walmart are they in?

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

They're in the craft section, near beads. I guess they're meant for storing beads. They were in plastic, hanging from the wall on hooks. They had different sizes, like 11/2" X 2" or 2"x3".

They also have them at Michael's crafts, not too expensive there, either. (Maybe 50 bags for a dollar?) I think they were with beads @ Michael's too. If you ask, they'll direct you to them.


Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

taj said:

>> Rice does same thing as little silica gel pacs mentioned above (wich is a wonderful way to reuse an item) by keeping moisture out of seeds.

Rice works better if you bake it first, to get it extra-dry. I'm not sure of the exact temperature, but I was told "not quite hot enough that they turn brown".

And silica gel can be regenerated by baking a thin layer at 250 F. No hotter or you'll "scorch" it so it can't hold as much water.

Store either one in tightly-sealed glass as soon as it cools enough that it doesn't crack the glass. Otherwise the extra-dry desiccant will start soaking up water from the air.

Silica gel is very c heap at craft stores, int he flower-drying isle. I think I paid less than $7 for 1.5 pounds.

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

I keep my seeds in paper and plastic zip locs. At the end of the planting season I alpha list all my left over seeds and put all the packages in a vaccum seal pouch and seal it and put it in the freezer. In 10 years Linda has not used them for stir fry but I am still planting tomatoe seeds.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I use prescription bottles if many seeds of the same kind. If only a few seeds, I use the small craft ziplock bags found in Walmart craft dept. All are stored in the fridge in the crisper. Never freeze seeds. In nature there is always moisture that goes with the freezing process (stratification). Not so in a freezer. A seed has some moisture inside. When frozen dry, it will freeze and damage cells and can make the seeds unusable.

(Becky), Lipan, TX(Zone 7b)

Lots of good info on here, I do like the idea of keeping them in the fridge but I cook for 8 people and space is a hot commodity in there! Half of my seeds (the ones that have actually been cleaned!) are in little ziplocs I found at walmart real cheap like another user stated, labeled with the botanical name, common name and year collected. Some of the bigger acorns and beans, I just put in bigger ziplocs. Yes, have to make sure they are thoroughly dry, I learned my lesson a few years ago, mostly all my seeds molded, such a bummer!! Once I'm done cleaning all those seeds, I plan on getting one of those pocket organizers you can hang on the wall and separating my baggies by the month they get planted out. Looking at this inexpensive one from BB&B. Mounting it behind my closet door, nice and cool and dark :)


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


>> All are stored in the fridge in the crisper.

I agree that the "steady cool temperature" is very good for long-lasting viability. But are you controlling humidity ideally?

I understand if you're using the "vegetable drawer" or crisper so that you don't get condensation every time someone opens the main fridge door.

But are you aware that that drawer is designed to have higher humidity than the rest of the fridge? Not drier. That's so that things like lettuce doesn't dry out and become limp. It holds water longer in the crisper, stays "turgid" which makes them crisper.

Crackers get crisper when dry, but lettuce and fruit get limp and wrinkled when dry.

Maybe the newer drawers with an adjustable humidity control reduce the amount by which they are more humid. Or I may be wrong, and they let you keep thigns drier than they would be on a shelf. But my fear is that the RH in any of those drawers is often higher than 50% RH, and when you open it and get condensation, it goes to 100% until evaporation and air circulation or diffusion reduces it back down to something like (a guess) 50% RH.


Perhaps you would consider double-bagging you small Ziplocs inside a much bigger "freezer bag" which was designed to keep humidity out (or in) better than our small, thin Ziplocs. I think the Ziploc zipper is the main problem. At least that will give them protection against rapidly varying humidity due to drawers opening and condensation.

Like you, I pack my seeds inside 1 mil plastic Ziplocs. 2"x3", 3"x4", or 4"x6". Usually when I have a lot of one kind of seed, I divide it into 2x3" Ziplocs for individual sowings or trades. (I have only very small beds, so this works for anything except peas) and beans.)

Humidity and oxygen can pass slowly right through thin polyethylene like 1 mil. (*) 4 mil is better.

Humidity and oxygen can pass more easily through the zipper. However, "any" humidity is rather a lot.

(Try trapping some air inside a 2x3 Ziploc. Close the zipper firmly. Now put firm pressure on the bulge. It doesn't take very much force to push air right through the zipper fast enough to feel. That means there's some gap.)

So I like to keep small Ziplocs with seeds in a dry atmosphere, so that leakage allows humidity to be released from seeds and gradually draw out of the Ziploc and into a desiccant. They stay viable longer at lower equilibrium relative humidity.

Ideal RH for the longest viability is around 15-30% RH, or some say up to 35% RH. Viable life span for most seeds very roughly doubles for every 10% you can reduce the RH (without going below 15% RH). The equivalent actual % water in the seed (like grams of water per hundred grams of seeds) is around 4% to 7%

Post-harvest handling of seed collections

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens Technical Information Sheets:

This message was edited Oct 9, 2013 6:44 PM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


Note that I usually organize my 2x3 polyethylene Ziplocs inside glassine envelopes. The glassine envelopes are not moisture barriers because they are not sealed. At most they are folded over.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Because I like gadgets, I'm a big fan of desiccant: silica gel in paper coin envelopes to keep relative humidity below 35% where I store seeds. Around $7 for 1.5 pounds in the flower-drying isle of a craft store.

Of course that needs to be in a tightly sealed container or it would exhaust itself in a few hours by trying to dehydrate the whole atmosphere. I use plastic jars that used to hold 3 pounds of peanuts. I wish I had gaskets!

I put many 2x3" seed Ziplocs into the jar along with one paper envelope with 1-2 tablespoons of silica gel. .

A real "freezer bag" designed to reduce freezer burn might be tight enough as the outer moisture barrier ... with a little desiccant inside the big bag.

My 2-pound peanut jar lid is intended (by me) to seal as tight as possible to keep "all" humidity from the room out.

The paper coin envelope around the silica gel lets humidity pass very freely, so the air inside the jar is kept as dry as possible.

The thin 2x3" Ziplocs protect seeds from any humidity swings like condensation, or room air entering when I unscrew the lid. during humid days. The thin Ziplocs plus silica gel even let seeds continue drying very slowly if I put them away "air dry" around 40%-50% RH.

P.S. After I air-dry my seeds for a few weeks, sometimes I dry them further IN PAPER envelopes in a tight container with some desiccant. That allows me to get them drier than the 40-50% equilibrium RH I can get by air drying. But when i store seeds in paper along with desiccant in paper, i watch carefully so they don't spend much time with the jar RH below 10%. I don't want the seeds' eRH to go below 15%.

page 20
"Standard practice is to line them with a plastic film, such as polyethylene. While the plastic film will hold liquid water, water vapor may pass through it. For instance, 1-mil polyethylene will pass water vapor at the rate of 1.5 grams/sq. ft./ 24 hrs, while 4-mil polyethylene will only pass about 0.05 grams/sq. ft./24 hrs at 75° F and 100% RH. We normally recommend that you use a minimum of 4-mil polyethylene, or something equivalent to it in water vapor transmission rate. "

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Here are my iris seedlings blooming at age 14 months, June 2013. The seeds were stored in the crisper until sowed in November along with some older seeds. I would call that a successful storage.

As said, "the proof is in the pudding" Seeds are tougher than you think. Nature made them that way or this earth would be barren of plants.

This message was edited Oct 9, 2013 9:17 PM

Thumbnail by blomma
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Seeds are tougher than you think.

First, I agree with that. I've heard many people say they stored peas or corn in a paper bag in an unheated and sun-struck shed with humid seasons for 5+ years.

I also agree that if your storage goals are just a few years, and seeds that are not fussy or delicate, the same thing that works for you works for many other people. "Don't fix it if it already works well enough" makes sense.

From what I read, many seeds can be kept longER if thoroughly dried, then kept in a steady low temperature and humidity. Like, seed banks that want to hold something for 15-25 years instead of 3-5 years, and still have 75% to 85% germination instead of 15% to 25%.

Different goals, different methods.

However, not all seeds can even survive drying! A few short-lived types NEED some humidity to last more than a few months. But I don't think Iris are like that:

sallyg says:

"store them dry in an envelope."
"Margie Valenzuela, writing for The Tucson Iris Society, says iris seed can be stored for 18 years and still grow if given the right conditions."

Read more: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3304/#ixzz2hMdpUOd5

" Iris seeds are good-sized -- from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch "

If those big seeds can last 18 years and still have reasonable viability, they don't need desiccant or any other pampering to be held for just a few years!

Many other seeds, for example small seeds, have more limited stored resources and more of those might remain viable for, say, 10 years, if they had optimum conditions.

I'm basing my practice on things I've read, like this from the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, and some papers that address seed bank issues:

Post-harvest handling of seed collections

"A “safe” moisture level for collections in the field is around
50% equilibrium relative humidity (eRH)."

(I believed that that referred to brief storage during filed trips where mold was the main concern.)

"Seed life span approximately doubles for every 10% reduction in seed eRH."

I've read that rule of thumb in several places.

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