Save Your Seeds!
While many are focusing our best efforts on planting a copious fall garden, some of us are still facing fruits and flowers from those summer crops that we have kept around the veggie beds. As a blossoming -or pro- gardener, this presents a perfect opportunity to practice your seed saving skills!
Would you believe that many of the unique heirloom varieties that we love and enjoy today are only around because someone chose to diligently save seeds year after year? The value behind this practice cannot be emphasized enough. Currently, we are in an unusual agricultural era where GMO’s, pesticides, and other manipulations often adulterate the seeds we buy from the stores. While seed saving preserves varieties of fruits, flowers, and veggies, it also can save you, your family, and friends money in the up coming seasons. Fortune (and food production) favors a gardener who thinks ahead.
This may seem like an incredibly simple process, but here we explore what seeds are worth saving, what are not, as well as how to harvest and preserve your seeds. The truth is, many of the modern seeds we gardeners work with are just are not worth saving- while others are invaluable. Fruits that come from what are called ‘hybrid’ plants typically produce unsuccessful seeds. Namely, this is because the parent plants are spliced with one, or several, other varieties in order to pull the best attributes together into a sort of ‘super’ plant. This is typically done to promote climate tolerance, pest prevention, and better fruit production among many reasons. Often, the seeds collected from hybrid plants will be sterile, or untrue to their parent plant. You may wind up growing one of the varieties that it was crossed with!
Another common problem with seeds is the quality of the parent plant. Seeds typically reflect the fruit and plant from which they were harvested. If the plant itself suffered from diseases, the ailments may be transmitted through the seeds. That is why, if you can, try to harvest the fruit directly from healthy, prosperous plants! When choosing fruit at a farmer’s market, look for healthy-looking and attractive produce to pull seeds from. Look for mature, fully developed seeds when choosing- those that are too young will not germinate. This is why it is always good to collect during the end of a growing season.
There are two ways to prepare your harvested seeds: both a dry and wet method. Vegetation like corn, peas, beans, flowers, and carrots prefer to be dried out full before you extract the mature seeds. To further ensure dryness, and prevent seed rot, place the collected seeds out on a screen or drying rack to air out over an extended period of time. The wet method proves much different.
Fruits like melons, squash, tomatoes, and roses prefer to have their seeds scooped or squeezed out while the produce is ripe and juicy. After the seeds are taken from the plant, place them in a sealable container and cover them completely with warm water. The goal here is to allow a fermentation process to occur over a period of three to five days, which will separate the seeds from plant material while also destroying viruses. Desirable seeds will sink. Drain off the pulpy water and allow the seeds to dry out on a paper towel or open screen.
Once your seeds have dried out completely, stored them in a cool, dry location for no longer than 2-3 years. Be sure to label your collection, as this may cause some confusion in the future growing season!
We hope this inspires you to keep your good plants going, year after year. Some families even send their favorite veggie varieties down through generations! If you have any questions about seed saving, or if you would like some help through the process, email us! For more information, check out the Seed Savers Exchange. You can join with other gardeners to trade and collect rare or popular seeds. What a great gardening community!