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!
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. Saving seeds preserves varieties of fruits, flowers, and veggies, and can save you money in the up coming seasons. Fortune (and food production) favors a gardener who thinks ahead. Here we explore what seeds are and are not worth saving, as well as how to harvest and preserve your seeds.
Seeds Not Suitable for Saving
Unfortunately many of the modern seeds we gardeners work with are not worth saving. 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 more other varieties 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 productions. 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!
Seeds Suitable for Saving
Collecting seeds from open pollinated, not hybrid plants will ensure that the same crop is produced the following year. The packet the original seeds came from will tell you. Tomatoes are self pollinating, so if you don’t use hybrids, you will be able to grow the same tomato from this year’s seeds.
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. If you can, try to harvest the fruit directly from healthy, prosperous plants.
Preparing Collected Seeds
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.
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. Discard seeds that float. 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. It is a great gardening community!