Seed Saving Basics Posted on 18 Sep 09:33 , 5 comments
Seed saving is becoming more and more popular with backyard growers. It is exciting to see so many people ask about the "how to" of seed saving. Without generations of seed savers before us, we would not have the precious few heirloom varieties we have today.
Onion flower almost ready for seed collecting
When you think of seed saving you might be focusing on flowering plants producing seeds and the actual collecting of those seeds. In some cases it is the actual act of saving a food crop seed from disappearing, never to be grown again.
In an 80 year period, 1903 to 1983, it is estimated that 93% of heirloom seed varieties were "lost" or became extinct. Now more than ever, the act of saving seeds and protecting biodiversity is critical.
I wrote Protecting Seed Diversity & Our Future back in 2017 and it is still relevant today.
Let's start with the basics.
Many of the heirloom seeds we offer at Mary's Heirloom Seeds have a rich, unique history. They have a "story" to tell. By saving and planting seed, you add your own chapter to the story.
This is the fun part! Collect seeds from healthy plants, specifically plants that are not diseased or stunted. This is an important step. You can also choose to select seeds from that's with specific traits, such as heat tolerance and productivity.
Keep in mind that if you are leaving pods on the plant for seeds or allowing them to "bolt" your plant might slow down on producing food. Basil for example, for leaf production it is recommended to pinch off flower. However, if you are working on saving seeds, you will need those flowers for seed production.
I mentioned earlier that "wet seeds" take a little more time. Wet seeds are seeds inside fruits/veggies like tomatoes, cucumber and eggplant. These seeds will need to be rinse and left to dry before storing them. It is important to remove any damp plant matter from these seeds to prevent molding. Tomato seeds are usually fermented for optimal germination. I will discuss this in depth in a later article.
Once you have collected your wet seeds, place them on a drying rack or plate to fully dry. This can take a few days to a few weeks. I do not recommend storing on a paper towel as the towel can hold moisture, causing it to mold and the seeds might also stick to the paper towel. A plate or drying screen will allow you to move the seeds around to adequately dry seeds. Your drying area should be in a cool spot, away from direct sunlight. Do not use an oven to dry seeds.
Dry are usually the easiest seeds to collect. A few examples of dry seeds include Zinnia, Sunflower, Basil, Cilantro and Beans. These seeds are either right out in the open or left in the pod to dry out. As we get into specific seed varieties and saving seeds from them, you'll see that there are a few different ways to collect dry seeds. This Sunflower seed head is HUGE and not even the largest one we grow!
"Seeds in good condition and stored properly should last at least one year and, depending on the plant, may last two to five years." This is specific for optimal germination. If you are going to plant old seeds, you can perform your own germination test to check their viability.
Seeds should be stored in cool, dry and dark spot.
You can use Jars, bags and bins. You can re-use containers and get creative
Some people store them in a jar in their refrigerator or freezer. I don not store my personal seed stash in a refrigerator or freezer as my seed stash would not fit. Instead, I store individually packaged containers in a large tote inside a large closet in a cool spot
If you intend to keep your seeds in a basement or area that might flood, a watertight container is a MUST. One of my customers let me know that they learned this the hard way.
Be sure to seal up your seeds to keep out bugs and rodents. Another customer let me know that she learned this the hard way.
Seed storage is a frequently asked question. This video is great for those of you that have purchased extra seeds and/or saved seeds.
As a special request, we also offer seed saving envelopes. You can choose from printed or plain. These are the same material as our seed packs at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.
Made from 40% post-consumer recycled paper and 100% compostable.
Made in the USA. Acid free
This is just the first in our Seed Saving Series. In case you missed our live chat about Seed Saving, here's the replay
Stay tuned for specific seed saving techniques and seed varieties. -Mary