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Garden Help Desk: Finding seed storage when the weather gets too hot

By USU Extension - | Jul 22, 2023

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Resealable plastic bags are an easy way to store garden seeds, but any airtight or leak proof container will protect stored seeds from moisture.

What is the best way to store my leftover vegetable seeds? I’ve had them on a shelf in my garage, but that seems too hot now.

Keeping your garden seeds in a garage or shed will affect their germination rate in the future. The ideal storage place for your vegetable seeds is somewhere cold, dark, and dry. A refrigerator is an easy way to provide the cold and dark conditions, and airtight packaging will control the humidity.

You could easily provide the dark storage your seeds need by keeping the seed packets in a padded envelope or closed box on your garage shelf, but neither of those will help with temperature or moisture control. The right temperature and the right humidity level are critical to keeping your seeds’ germination and vigor at their best. Every 10 degrees of storage temperature above 41 degrees can reduce the shelf life of your seeds by half. Seeds that are stored in humid conditions will also have reduced viability.

The simplest storage method is resealable plastic bags at the back of a refrigerator shelf. Airtight (AKA leakproof) food storage containers are another option. A used canning jar with a lid will also do the job.

The moisture level of the seeds themselves also makes a difference. If you collect and save seeds from your garden, make sure you give your seeds time to dry before storing them. Also take the time to label and date your seeds before you tuck them away for next year.

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A refrigerator provides leftover garden seeds with the cold, dark conditions that will extend their shelf life. A leakproof container to keep out moisture is also important.

I added a second emitter to the drip irrigation for my tree, but it still seems to be struggling. How many emitters does a tree need?

The right number of emitters or micro-sprays for your tree depends on the size of the tree and the type of soil in your landscape.

Water in a sandy soil tends to move straight down instead of spreading out, and the opposite is true for more clay-like soils. To provide water over a wide area of a root zone, you’ll need more emitters for a tree in sandy soil than for a tree in a clay soil. A soil test will tell you what kind of soil you have if you’re not sure about the soil type in your landscape.

The size of the tree also matters because the larger the tree, the larger the root system. You want to provide water to as much of the root system as practical, not just to one or two spots in the root system.

An established tree needs to get a deep soak with its once-a-week watering in the summer. You need to run your system long enough to give your tree that deep soak. Water should move about 12-18 inches down into the soil. A few 1 GPH emitters or micro-sprays that run for 15-20 minutes won’t be giving your tree the deep watering it needs. Using only a couple of emitters won’t cover enough of the root system to keep a larger tree well-watered, either.

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Individual emitters or inline drip tubing should be placed away from the trunk and out where the roots of the tree can get the moisture they need. Emitters close to the trunk can cause decay and also create attractive conditions for egg-laying borers.

The roots of a healthy tree extend beyond the drip line of the tree. If you’re using individual emitters or micro-sprays, space several of them around the tree, but put them away from the trunk and out into the shadow that’s cast by the tree at midday. Many people put a drip emitter close to the trunk when they first plant a tree, and then don’t update that arrangement as the tree gets larger. As a tree grows you need to add emitters or micro-sprays and spread them out over the growing root system. It’s also unhealthy for the tree to have emitters up against the trunk of the tree. Not only will that not deliver water to most of the root system, you’ll also be keeping the trunk at the soil line wet. That can contribute to decay, pest and disease problems for your tree.

Inline drip tubing instead of individual emitters may be an easier way to bring water to the root system of a larger tree. This tubing can be arranged in a loop over the root zone, or even in two concentric loops for large trees. Built-in emitters in the tubing are spaced to provide more even coverage than you’ll get with just a few individual emitters.

There’s one last think to keep in mind when watering with drip irrigation. Just like all plants in our yards and gardens, landscape trees benefit from some kind of mulch over the soil. If you’re using drip emitters, your tree will get more of the water if you keep the emitters below the mulch instead of on top of the mulch.


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