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TUESDAY, MARCH 16, 2010- Vegetable seed packets for sale at the Olive Farmer's Market in University City. Stephanie S. Cordle scordle@post-dispatch.com

Q • Should seeds for gardening be stored in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers to protect them from pests or does this kill the seeds?

A • I assume you mean moisture, rather than oxygen, absorbers. The idea is to keep the seeds dry. Unused seeds retain a longer shelf life if stored dry in individual packets in airtight containers in a cool, dark place where temperatures don’t fluctuate much.

I use an old glass peanut butter jar with a screw-on lid. It’s large enough to accommodate many seed packets. How long seeds remain viable depends on the species of plant in question, but most seeds stay fresh for several years treated in this manner. If you’re short on recycled manufactured absorbers, substitute a teaspoon or two of instant or “minute” rice in the bottom of the jar, as it absorbs free moisture very efficiently.

Write to Chip Tynan of the Missouri Botanical Garden at chip.tynan@mobot.org or Horticultural Answer Service, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, 63110.

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