One of the best things you can do for your garden – is to save your own seed. This is one of the oldest and most beneficial things to learn how to do. Ever wonder “where did a Cherokee Purple tomato came from?” or what about your favorite squash? If you are using heirloom seed, then those seeds have been passed down for some time. The seeds can be passed down from one generation to another or from gardener to gardener. Seed Saving is absolutely crucial to the overall success of your garden!
Why seed saving is important?
Seed saving is as old as gardening. There was a time when gardeners considered seed from their favorites plants to be treasures well worth saving from year to year. These days, seeds and seedlings are relatively inexpensive and there are new plants to try every year. So why be a seed saver?
Aside from the politics, capitalism and biotechnology arguments that are making the news, the bottom line reason for saving seeds is because you have a plant you want to grow again. It is also our way of preserving the seed for future generations so that they can also grow it.
It could be the gorgeous calendula, the best tasting tomato or a giant pumpkin. You never know when a seed company will discontinue your favorite seed to make way for new varieties. Seed saving is your own guarantee!
What Seeds Can Be Saved?
Open Pollinated or heirloom, self-pollinated plants are the only varieties that will grow true from seed, meaning the seedlings will be exactly like the parents. These are the seeds worth saving.
Seeds that have been hybridized will grow into a variety of plants with some characteristics of either or both parents. Many, if not most, of the plants being sold now are hybrids.
Hybridizing can create a plant with desirable traits and affords some job security for the seed company. Seed saving is not really an option with hybrids, unless you are looking to discover something new.
With that being said, there are still many plants that will grow true from seed saving. Sharing these seeds can be one of the most generous things you can do.
Tip: Self-pollinated plants are the easiest to save and include: Beans, Chicory, Endive, Lettuce, Peas, Tomatoes.
Methods and Timing for Saving Seeds
You should always selectively choose the best quality plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables from which to save seeds. Things to look for are disease resistance, growth, great flavor and productivity. Harvest seeds either:
- When the seed pods have dried on the plant. Keep an eye on the pods as they start to brown. Most seed pods will open and disperse on their own.
- You can catch seed by placing small bags over the seed heads when they look ready to pop or by pulling the plant just before completely dry and storing upside down in a paper bag.
- When the vegetable is completely ripe. The vegetables will be well past their edible stage when the seeds are ready. For most vegetables you can simply scoop out and dry the seeds. Tomatoes require a wet processing method that is explained elsewhere.
Storing Saved Seed
- Make sure the seed is completely dry, or it will rot or mold in storage
- Remove as much of the chaff as possible
- Store in a paper envelope, labeled with the variety and year
- Place the envelopes into an air tight container, such as a canning jar
- Store in a cool, dark, dry place
- Stored seed is best used the following year but most will last for several years.
Seed saving is one of the most sustainable things you can do for your garden. Saving seeds is a way for you to provide valuable seeds for your garden year after year. Growing plants from seeds saved from your own garden, will, over the years, result in plants uniquely adapted to your garden.
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