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Save Your Seeds: A How To

February 22, 2012

Once you get some gardening under your belt, it might be fun to save your seeds.  Not only is it green (no fossil fuels burned in the making), it will save you money.  But there are also benefits beyond your household – you will be protecting the gene pool.  Some believe that old varieties of seeds and vegetables will only survive and flourish with the help of backyard gardeners.  With the advent of hybridization, people stopped saving seeds, and for some crops this has been happening for over the last 50 years.  Although there are advantages of hybrid seeds for farmers (better yields, less pests and diseases), the downside is that they produce plants with nearly useless seeds.  Hybrid seeds are bred by crossing two different parent plants.  Planting seeds from a plant produced by hybrid seeds will produce unknowing results. Thus, it is best to start with heirloom and/or open-pollinated seeds.  These seeds have not been manipulated by man and their pollination happens naturally.

So let’s get started!  The steps you take will depend on the fruit or vegetable you are working with.  If you are looking for the lazy (I mean easy) route – stick with fruits whose seeds you can easily scrape off.  Some seeds are small and deeply embedded inside.

  1. Select the best seeds.  Find a plant that bore fruit early or something that tastes yummy.
  2. For fruit bearing plants (i.e. peppers, cucumbers, squashes), simply scrap the seeds away.  Wash away any flesh, liquid or pulp (I use a strainer). Spread them out evenly on plates or paper towel.  Don’t layer seeds because they need air to circulate around them.  Stir them each day.  Don’t put them in the oven to dry, damage to the seeds occur if the temperature of the seed rises above 95 degrees F.
  3. There is a bit of waiting to be done with other types of plants, such as leafy greens.  You are waiting for the flowers to wilt and dry out, well past the time the food plants taste good (unless you love bitter salad).  You can cut off the seed heads and place them upside down in a bag.  Tie the bag shut until the seeds have released themselves.  Poke holes in the bag.  When this step is complete, debris may be big enough to separate out the seeds by hand.  If the seeds are small, a strainer may help.  Seeds still may need time as described in bullet #2.
  4. Most importantly, make packages with labels.  It might be good to reuse the original seed packs for all the plant information.
  5. Store seeds in a cool, dry place throughout the winter.

Want more tips?  You can easily type into a search engine “save <vegetable name> seeds” to get tips for a specific vegetable. If you really want to jump into seed saving, there are about ten books on the subject on Amazon.

Want to learn more about hybrid seeds?  Two books in my library have short but comprehensive explanations: The Green Gardener Guide by Joe Lampe and Newspaper Pennies Cardboard & Eggs for Growing a Better Garden by Roger Yepsen.

And of course – good luck and have fun.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 28, 2012 8:32 am

    Hello, you packed all I need to know into this site. I have bookmarked it for later use. Well done and much appreciated. I actually host a weekly gardening link up every Friday on my blog. I’d love for you to drop by and join in.

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