Heirloom Seeds Should Be A Part of Your Storage Plans…

Heirloom Seeds Part of Your Storage Plans

My wife and I have love watching the show Pawn Stars. The show takes place in Las Vegas, NV and surrounds the Harrison family business of owning, as you might guess by the title of the show, a pawn shop. The majority of the show is about people bringing their old and unique items into the shop in the hopes of selling the item to the Harrison family for some extra cash.

What my wife and I particularly love about the show are the older, rarer items that come across the television screen. Old musketoons, uncovered handwritten letters by US Presidents past, trunks full of antiques and handfuls of odd shaped gems that have been passed down through people’s families for countless generations.

I am less interested in what they are worth and more interested in the story behind the item. Who owned it, how old is it and the “man if that object could talk, the stories it could tell,” aspect to it. You are shown valuable objects that have been passed down through the years, and those objects are referred to as heirlooms.


Like the objects in the show, heirloom seeds are those seeds that have been passed down through the years from one generation to the next. Just like the antiques, family heirlooms and those items that you will see in the aforementioned show, heirloom seeds usually have a great story behind them. If you have the time I would highly recommend searching on those stories. You can immerse yourself in these wonderful tales of yore and get lost in time. They are fascinating.

Heirloom seeds are very important to us as a society. They bridge the gap from today to when our ancestors and not too distant relatives relied solely on their own skills and abilities to grow their own food. Just as important as growing their own food, they had to save the seeds from what they were growing, otherwise they could not possibly have a harvest in subsequent seasons. The internet was non existent there were no big box retail stores to go pick up seed packets, although some local general stores would carry some seeds.

Our predecessors had to do it the old fashioned way. They had to save the seeds from what they were growing every year and then pass those seeds along to their next of kin who could repeat the process. Hence, heirloom variety seeds.


About Hybrid Seeds

Unlike your great great great grandma, today you have a large list of suppliers to choose from when it comes to buying seeds. You also have a large list of choices, especially when you factor in hybrid choices. A hybrid seed is a cross pollination of two species of plants. This is done for a variety of reasons. Hybrids are developed to give the plant the ability to fight off pests or diseases, become more drought tolerant and even adapt well to different climates.

Where hybrid seeds fall short of heirlooms is the fact you can not plant a seed from a hybrid plant and expect to grow the same exact plant the next season. Although it can happen, the odds are very unlikely. The hybrid plant has the traits from its parent’s plant to give it the benefits that are being desired. They get some of one parent and some of another. This means it is senseless to save the seeds from a hybrid plant and that forces you to buy those seeds every year.

Hybrid seeds are a terrible seed to consider for long term storage, but definitely a fun seed to try in your garden if you see something different that you would like to try. Just make sure you plant your hybrid crops at least twelve feet away from your heirloom crops to ensure that no cross pollination occurs.

Heirloom Seeds

The benefit of heirloom seeds, beyond the great stories that are behind them, is the fact you can save the seeds from the heirloom plant that you are growing and produce the same variety of plant each season. That is why you need heirloom seeds to be a part of your storage plans. Because they will grow the same plant every year, having heirloom variety seeds will ensure that you are going to be able to grow healthy fruits, vegetables and herbs that you are familiar with, every season.

Another benefit is, heirloom seeds store well and keep for very long periods of time. When stored properly, in a cool, dry location, we are talking about many years, not a couple of seasons. This past year I was able to germinate some spinach seeds that were nine years old.

So what is a good storage location for your heirloom seeds? As mentioned earlier a cool, dry location, such as a basement would be ideal, but you will want to pick a location where there is not much fluctuation in temperature. Along with a constant (or near constant) temperature, you want the location to have as little humidity and moisture as possible. You can see why a basement works well, although you may need a dehumidifier to keep moisture levels low.

If you follow these rules you too may be able to germinate some seeds in your collection years from now and that brings me to my next point.


How Long Do They Last

Search the internet long enough and you are sure to find thousands of answers to this one question. How long will my seeds last before they will no longer germinate?

It is important to know that your heirloom seeds do not expire like milk would. When milk goes bad it’s bad and you probably should not drink it. What happens with seeds is their germination rate begins to decline over time. What once took 3 to 7 days to germinate, may now take a couple of weeks. That length of time expands until eventually, the seeds simply will not germinate.

The rate of decline for germination varies by seed variety as well. Onions have shorter time frames then save certain species of squash. A good rule of thumb is, when stored properly, your seeds should be plenty viable for well more than 2 to 5 years.

Once you start reaching that 2 to 5 year range for your seeds, you will want to make sure you grow the items that are the oldest and save some new seeds so that you continually replenish your supply. Even if you only grow one plant to accomplish this, just make sure you save plenty of the seeds.

How Do I Save Seeds

Once you have started your collection of heirloom seeds, from a supplier that you choose, you will want to learn how to save the seeds from your fruits, vegetables and herbs from one season to the next. How the seeds are saved will vary based on what you are growing. Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers are fairly easy. Pick your best fruit, extract the seeds, and let them sit in a location where they can dry out. However items like carrots and onions are not so intuitive.

Carrots for example, won’t go to seed until they have been growing for two years. That means you have to let them continually grow and harvest the seeds after the second season. A handful of carrots is all you need to harvest plenty of seeds to keep you going. However, you will have to plan accordingly, to make sure your storage needs are met for carrots and those other veggies that take a couple of years to produce seeds.

You can see with all that is written above the great benefits of using and growing your home garden from heirloom seeds. You will be using viable seeds that have survived generations and you will be able to increase your own skill set of saving the seeds once you grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs from them.

As a final note, and is the case with heirloom tomatoes, you can literally save thousands of seeds from a single plant, so be sure to pass those heirloom seeds along to friends, relatives and loved ones. You will be sure to have plenty of heirloom seeds for many years to come.

Special Thanks

Special Thanks goes to Mike Podlesny, for allowing us to share his work with all of you. Not only has Mike shared his Heirloom Seed Storage Knowledge with us, but when we asked him for some Heirloom seeds so that we could host a giveaway, he generously offered to give us a full 1 Year Subscription to his Seeds of the Month Club. Thank you Mike!

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts.

Please Comment Below

Do you save heirloom seeds? How long have you been using heirloom seeds? If not do you plan to use them in the future.. We would love to hear from you, Please comment below…

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  1. says

    Mike I love the fact that you share that we should not totally abandon the hybrid seed. I obviously don’t collect hybrid seeds but there is a variety of peppers that is so prolific and I so enjoy growing them and I have been shamed by people because they are hybrid. Thank you for that validation! Mike thanks so much for bringing up the point of humidity with our long term seed storage we live in humid coastal NC and I don’t have a basement and I think this may have impacted some of my seed saving I will look into ways I can reduce the humidity. I so enjoyed this post!

  2. says

    First of all, I want to say, “I love the Seeds of the Month Club.” It’s like Christmas every month when I see that envelope in my mail box.

    I have a question about kale. I know it’s a biennal and I’ve had some growing since Oct. 2012 (I live in a warm climate). Will it be October before it seeds? Or is it just sometime during it’s second year?


  3. says

    I really would love to start a garden. The seed of the month club sounds really awesome. When it comes to gardening I need all the help I can get! This article is wonderful thank so much!

  4. Elizabeth says

    Hmmmm, I didn’t know you were supposed to keep the humidity low to store seeds… I’ve been keeping all of mine in the refridgerator so now I guess I’ll have to figure out a better place to keep them.

    • Blue Yonder Urban Farms says

      Hello Elizabeth,, Isn’t there a lot to learn,, I did not know that either,, Welcome…

  5. Paulette Golon says

    Just started gardening because I have problems with the GMO’S . We have a small garden in containers in a mobile home park. Heirloom seeds are the seeds that are like what we grew up on. Heirloom seeds would be great for my new garden. We live in Calistoga, California if I am lucky to win will the seeds tell me when to plant in zone 9?

    • Blue Yonder Urban Farms says

      Hello Paulette,, I did not know Calistoga was in zone 9… I can’t answer your question maybe Mike will come by… Glad to see you…

  6. says

    Thanks for this sharing of information! I have always been interested in storing my seeds, but didn’t know a lot about how to do it. Now I can be even more prepared!

  7. Mia Hunsberger says

    I have been interested in heirloom seds for quite a while and my sister already has a small collection started for our prep :)

  8. lrs80 says

    I have a small garden and would love to learn more about different types of veggies. Each type is a new surprise.

  9. fayme s says

    I am a beginner … I am most interested in learning to grow healthy nutrient dense foods year round and how to preserve other bounties, in a variety of ways. I regularly pick up packages of heirloom seeds at random. Its my garden skills I am trying to improve!

  10. Julie M. says

    I have been learning about food storage and gardening and the like for about two years now. I just have saved my first sugar snap pea seeds!

  11. Sarah says

    Thanks for all the great information! It is very helpful to learn so much in just one article! I have been interested in prepping/food storage for years, but have only started actually implementing it for the last year or so, and just added heirloom seeds to my collection this year.

  12. Melody says

    Thank you for the great information! I have been saving my seeds in a Food Saver vacuum-sealed reclosable bag. I live in Tennessee so I don’t have a really good place to store my seeds. I’ve been keeping them in our garage fridge, which isn’t set as cold as the indoor fridge.

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