Seed Saving for Beginners
Saving seeds is not difficult!
Anyone can start with a few or a bunch!
Now’s a Great Time to start saving seeds!
Before we begin, let’s discuss the obvious:
Why Should You be Saving Seeds?
There are tons of great reasons to start saving seeds. I’m sure you can come up with a few yourself if you give it a little bit of thought.
- First, the supply chain is shaky. You can create your own personal supply chain that will keep on giving!
- We can save the varieties that we like
- We can have a good supply of seeds for next year–all for free!
- We can share with others, or even sell them!
- It’s satisfying to provide for ourselves
- Promotes self-reliance
- It’s educational and fun to see the whole growth cycle
- Preserves desirable plants.
- Connects us to our Creator
- Reminds us that Seedtime and Harvest will remain until Jesus comes.
Seed Saving–What to Do:
- Expect a mess. Seeds will fly everywhere.
- Make sure seeds are completely DRY before storing.
- Store in paper, not ziplocks. Seeds need to breathe, not suffocate. Ask me how I know that?
- Lay seeds out flat for a few days to ensure dryness.
- Label!! You will not remember next year which variety of tomato you saved!
- Be patient! It’s not a fast job! Some seeds saving gets tedious!
- Get there before the birds do!
- Share with others! Maybe they will return the favor sometime!
- Have fun!
Seed Saving–What NOT to do!
- Worry about saving every seed! A handful is plenty of most garden crops. Exceptions include bean crops, corn, and those plants that you just want a lot of!
- Store in plastic–see above. I made that mistake and everything got moldy.
- Get grossed out. Sometimes the process gets slimy and stinky before you can access the seeds.
Seeds we are saving this year:
- Okra–green and red
- Green beans
- Candy Roaster Squash
- Tomato–several varieties
- Chives–shared these and saved some. But ours mostly re-seed themselves so we can transplant them.
- Sweet banana pepper
- Tomatillo–green and purple
- Watermelon–from our giant volunteer! Obviously it’s a good grower here!
- Holy Basil (Tulsi)
- Lime Basil
Most of these seeds we saved were in small quantities. The sunflowers…I tried to save a LOT!
Seeds we are saving in the garden:
- Nasturtium (as always, they provide many seeds and plant themselves. I just dig up the tiny plants and move them come Spring. Gonna have to control them a bit better next time, because they took over my herb bed!)
- Echinacea–decorative. Just planted the seed heads in the dirt around the plant since the seeds have to be stratified anyway (exposed to cold temperatures for a specified length of time to allow seeds to germinate)
- Herbs: hoping some will drop seeds and spread that way.
Saving seeds is pretty self-explanatory for many plants.
- Choose plant that’s healthy and big (you want to carry on the best characteristics, so don’t choose a scrawny plant!).
- Leave a couple of fruits/vegetables on the plant to sacrifice for the next generation. Allow them to fully mature.
- For big seeds, like green beans and okra, just leave the pods to dry on the vine. Corn, beans, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Some seeds grow out of the flowers. Zinnias, echinacea, stevia–some of these flowers contain the seeds in the petals themselves.
- Other flower and herb seeds grow inside the flowers and pop open when ripe. Pansies, basils, many of our herbs, chives–they have flowers that contain seeds when mature.
- Many greens make their seeds after they flower, or bolt. Just wait for the seeds to fully mature after the plant has bolted.
- Root veggies, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and many flowers reproduce by sprouts coming off of the roots, or tubers. So you need to save the actual root and sprout it.
- Squashes and melons seeds get scooped out of the middle. It’s ok to use an overripe fruit. The seeds should still be good.
- Soft fruits like tomatoes and peppers have seeds inside of them. You need to remove the seeds, simple ten with the goo, and set them aside. Once they get bubbly then you can rinse and strain off the slimy membrane from the seeds. Then air dry. I just let mine dry in a strainer.
How about a How-To?
Step by step basic process for saving seeds.
- Collect seeds from mature plants
- Place in a strainer or on a tray to thoroughly dry. Some seeds take several days.
- Sort and label. Store in paper until you are sure they are absolutely bone dry.
- Once completely day, you may store you packets in airtight containers or bags, away from heat and sunlight.
- Use oxygen absorbers, if desired, for prolonged storage.
- Remember where you store them!
That’s about it!
Seed Savers for beginners!
One handy tip for releasing seeds from the seed heads: The Pan Method:
- If you have seeds tightly closed in the seed cases, you can place the whole seed head into a pan with a lid.
- Shake vigorously with lid held tightly in place.
- Check periodically. You should have a lot of the seeds in the bottom of the pan. This makes it much easier!
Now get out and save some seeds!!
For more reading, please check out the following resources:
- Seed to Seed. We use this book in our home.
- Saving Seeds: The Gardener’s Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds (A Down-to-Earth Gardening Book)
- Seed Sowing and Saving: Step-by-Step Techniques for Collecting and Growing More Than 100 Vegetables, Flowers, and Herbs
- A Seed is Sleepy. Lively illustrated children’s book explaining about seeds.
- Seed to Plant. National Geographic Reader
- Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie
- Trees, Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds. A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom (Smithsonian)
A few items that make seed saving easier:
- Small paper envelopes for saving seeds
- Or make your own! See how I did it with regular envelopes!
- Fine mesh strainers for rinsing and collecting seeds
- Baby food jars–use to collect seeds you’ve saved. Leave lids off until perfectly dry
- Nice gift-worthy seed saving kit
There is much more to learn!