Saving your vegetable seeds at the end of the growing season isn’t new to gardeners, gardeners have been doing this for years, not only to save on costs but to preserve last year’s plants that grow best in your garden and are well adapted to your local growing conditions.
It may sound silly having a guide to saving seeds but there is a little more to it than collecting your seeds.
Choose The Right Seeds To Save
Look for healthy, vigorous plants that produce a good crop of fruit or vegetables you love to tuck into, or flowers you love to see around the garden.
It’s worth keeping in mind that not all your plants will produce productive seeds, unfortunately the seeds which are sold in most garden centres have been created artificially by cross-pollinating.
This means it will not produce plants true to its type so these seeds from hybrids are not worth saving.
Saving seeds from vegetables, flowers and herbs is fairly easy as long as you know the plant life cycle.
This will determine when and how these seeds can be saved;
Annuals, such as basil, beans, marigolds, tomatoes and oregano, flower and produce seed within one growing season. As a result, they are ideal plants from which to harvest seed.
Biennial plants won’t produce seeds the first year, so protect them over the winter and grab their seeds at the end of the next growing season. While saving seed from biennials, such as beets, caraway, evening primrose, onion and Swiss chard, requires a little more patience, their seed will produce plants that are true to type, providing they are not allowed to cross-pollinate with similar cultivars.
Perennials come back year after year and include plants such as artichokes, chives, daisy, mint and rhubarb. While they are propagated from seed, perennial plants are usually reproduced from cuttings or division
Start With Easy Crops
If you’re new to seed saving, it’s best to start with easier crops such as peas, bean, lettuce and tomatoes. These crops are self-pollinating and require little to no isolation. You will find that you will on need a few of these plants to reliably produce seeds.
Know When Your Seeds Are Mature
Crops that produce wet fruits, the seeds aren’t always mature when the fruits are ready to eat. Aubergine, cucumbers and summer squash fruits are typically eaten when the fruit is immature and still edible. This means you will need to leave a few of the fruits to fully mature if you want to save the seeds.
Dry crops such as grains, lettuce and beans can be removed once their seeds are dry and hard.
Dry Your Seeds
If you have been gathering and saving your own seeds, it’s best to spread them onto a piece of paper or newspaper and let them air-dry for around a week. Write the seed names onto the paper so you don’t get them mixed up. Once they have been air dried, pack them into small paper packets or envelopes and label them with the plant name and other information that will be useful to you next year.
Keep Seeds Somewhere Airtight
Storing your seeds somewhere that is airtight is incredibly important, you could put your seed packets inside food bags, mason jars or glass containers.
A little hack to keeping seeds dry is wrapping two heaped tablespoons of powdered milk in four layers of facial tissue then put the milk packet inside the storage container with the seed packets or you could add a packet of silica gel in with the seed. Replace these very 6 months.
Store In A Dry Cool Place
Storing your seeds in a warm, humid place will shorten a seeds shelf life. Many gardeners store their seeds in the fridge or somewhere the know that will stay cool and dry.
Throw Away Seeds Pass Their Prime
Keep each batch of seeds together and dated, most seeds remain viable for about three years so it’s best to keep an eye on the dates. You will be able to spot the seeds which still have planting potential and which seeds don’t.
Prepare Seeds For Planting
When the time and season comes around for your seeds to be planted, remove the containers from storage and keep them closed until the seeds warm to room temperature.
This is important as moisture in the air will condense on the seeds which will cause them to clump together.
Look Out For Dud Seeds
No matter how organised and careful you have been storing your seeds, some seeds are bound not to germinate when being planted. Some seed germination rates are higher than others, it’s all about trial and error.
As time passes and you become more comfortable with storing seeds, you will learn which seeds store well for you and which seeds need a little extra care.
Don’t forget to label your seeds with the type of crop, variety name and useful notes about your seed source.