Saving Vegetable Seeds:
Gardening can be a rewarding and satisfying experience, but it can also be expensive if you’re constantly buying new seeds every season. That’s why saving vegetable seeds is such an attractive option for many gardeners. Not only does it allow you to save money, but it also ensures that you have a steady supply of seeds for future seasons.
In this comprehensive guide to saving vegetable seeds, we will explore the different steps you need to take to ensure a successful and sustainable gardening experience. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this guide will provide you with the information you need to get started.
Why Save Vegetable Seeds?
There are several reasons why you might want to consider saving vegetable seeds. For one, it can be an economical option, as buying seeds every season can add up quickly. Additionally, saving seeds from plants that have adapted to your local climate can increase the chances of success for future plantings.
Another benefit of saving vegetable seeds is that it allows you to have control over the varieties of vegetables that you grow. You can choose to save seeds from the best-performing plants, ensuring that you get the best produce each season.
Finally, saving seeds can help to promote biodiversity and preserve rare or heirloom varieties of vegetables. This can be especially important in areas where large-scale agriculture is causing a loss of diversity in crop varieties.
Selecting Seeds to Save
The first step in saving vegetable seeds is to choose which seeds you want to save. When selecting seeds, it’s important to consider the following factors:
Maturity: Choose seeds from mature plants that have produced ripe fruits or vegetables.
Fertility: Look for plants that have produced an abundance of fruit or vegetables, as this is a good indicator of fertility.
Adaptation: Choose seeds from plants that have adapted well to your local climate and soil conditions.
Purity: Select seeds from plants that have not cross-pollinated with other plants of a different variety.
Once you’ve selected the seeds you want to save, it’s time to collect them. The method of collection will vary depending on the type of vegetable, so it’s important to research the specific steps for the variety you’re saving seeds from.
Seed Saving Techniques
There are several techniques that you can use to save seeds, including:
- Dry seed method
- Fermentation method
- Seed cleaning method
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best method for you will depend on the type of seeds you are saving and your personal preferences.
Dry seed method
The dry seed method is one of the most common and simplest methods for saving seeds. It involves allowing the seeds to mature and dry on the plant, and then collecting and storing them. This method works best for seeds that are easy to remove from the plant, such as beans or peas, and those that are easy to dry, such as tomatoes.
To use the dry seed method, simply wait until the seeds are fully mature on the plant, and then carefully cut the seed pods or fruits and place them in a dry, well-ventilated area. Leave the seeds to dry completely, which can take several days to several weeks, depending on the type of seed.
Once the seeds are completely dry, remove them from the pods or fruits and store them in an airtight container, such as a jar or plastic bag, in a cool, dry place. Label the container with the date, variety, and source of the seeds to help you keep track of what you have saved.
The dry seed method is a simple and effective way to save seeds, and is especially useful for those who are new to seed saving or who have limited space for seed drying. However, it is important to keep in mind that some seeds may not dry properly using this method, so it is always best to research the best seed saving method for each type of seed.
The Fermentation method
The fermentation method is a more complex, but highly effective way to save seeds, especially for those that are difficult to dry using the dry seed method. This method involves fermenting the seeds in a mixture of water and sugar to remove any residual flesh or pulp that may be attached to the seeds.
To use the fermentation method, carefully remove the seeds from the plant and place them in a container, such as a glass jar or plastic bag, with a mixture of water and sugar. Seal the container and place it in a warm, dark place for several days, checking it periodically to ensure that the seeds are fermenting properly.
As the seeds ferment, the mixture will become cloudy and develop a sour smell. This is a sign that the process is working and that the seeds are being cleaned of any remaining flesh or pulp. Once the mixture becomes cloudy and sour, strain the seeds from the mixture and rinse them thoroughly with clean water.
After rinsing, spread the seeds out on a paper towel or drying rack and allow them to dry completely, which can take several days to a week, depending on the type of seed. Once the seeds are completely dry, store them in an airtight container, such as a jar or plastic bag, in a cool, dry place. Label the container with the date, variety, and source of the seeds to help you keep track of what you have saved.
The fermentation method is a more involved process than the dry seed method, but it is a highly effective way to save seeds, especially for those that are difficult to dry or clean. However, it is important to keep in mind that the fermentation process can also be a source of contamination, so it is always best to research the best seed saving method for each type of seed and to take proper precautions to prevent contamination.
The Seed Cleaning Method
The seed cleaning method is an important step in the process of seed saving, as it helps to remove any debris or contaminants that may be present on the seeds. Proper seed cleaning is essential for ensuring that the seeds are of high quality and that they will grow into healthy plants.
There are several methods for cleaning seeds, depending on the type of seed and the level of contamination. Some common seed cleaning methods include sifting, winnowing, and using a seed cleaner.
Sifting involves using a screen or mesh to separate the seeds from any larger debris, such as stems or leaves. This is an effective method for removing larger debris, but may not be suitable for removing smaller particles or contaminants.
Winnowing involves using air currents to separate the seeds from smaller debris and contaminants. This is done by gently pouring the seeds from one container to another, allowing the wind to blow away any lighter debris and contaminants.
A seed cleaner is a specialized tool that uses screens, brushes, and other components to separate the seeds from debris and contaminants. Seed cleaners can be purchased or built at home, and are an effective and efficient method for cleaning large quantities of seeds.
It is important to remember that seed cleaning should only be done once the seeds are completely dry, as cleaning wet seeds can damage them and reduce their viability. Additionally, it is important to handle the seeds carefully during the cleaning process, as rough handling can also damage the seeds and reduce their viability.
Overall, the seed cleaning method is an important step in the process of seed saving, as it helps to ensure that the seeds are of high quality and that they will grow into healthy plants. By taking the time to clean the seeds properly, you can help to ensure the success of your seed saving efforts.
Here is a list of common seeds and the method used for saving them:
Dry seed method:
Seed cleaning method:
Storing seeds correctly is essential for their longevity and viability. Here are some tips for storing seeds:
- Store seeds in a cool, dry place.
- Label the seeds with the date, variety, and source.
- Keep seeds in airtight containers, such as jars or plastic bags.
- Check the seeds regularly for signs of mold or pest damage.
It’s also important to label your containers with the name of the seed variety, the date it was collected, and any other relevant information.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I save seeds from store-bought vegetables?
Yes, you can save seeds from store-bought vegetables, but it’s important to note that they may not produce the same results as seeds from a local source. Store-bought vegetables may not be well-adapted to your local climate, and they may have been treated with chemicals that can affect their ability to germinate.
- How long do vegetable seeds last?
The lifespan of vegetable seeds depends on several factors, including the type of seed, storage conditions, and the age of the seed. On average, vegetable seeds can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years if stored properly. To extend the lifespan of your seeds, store them in a cool, dry place, and replace them every few years.
- Can I save seeds from hybrid plants?
Hybrid plants are the result of cross-breeding two different varieties of plants, and their seeds will not produce plants that are true to the parent plant. Therefore, it’s not recommended to save seeds from hybrid plants.
Seeds and planting
Links and Resources
(These are some of what I use)
mybackyard.ca Seeds Page
Get a Head Start on Spring: The Benefits of Starting Your Seeds Indoors
Saving Vegetable Seeds: A Comprehensive Guide to Gardening Success
myBackyard.ca Planting Guide
Pollock Tomatoes (North hardy Tomato variety)
Tomatoes (Useful information on starting tomatoes from seed)
Individual seed and plant information is available in the "Gardening Shortcut Links" above under "North Hardy Plants to grow". I have successfully grown all of these, and most I grow year to year.
Square Foot Gardening
Information and resources for square foot gardening here in NW Ontario.
Excel Garden Planner
An excel worksheet I developed to help plan and track my square foot gardening.
North Hardy Plants
Not all plants will grow here, but a lot will.
The following are additional resources and information as well as basic information for growing this and many other garden plants here in NW Ontario.
Square Foot Gardening Basics
High productivity, small area
About Garden Planning
Laying out your garden and pre-planning what to plant is best accomplished over the winter months. It gives you escape from the north winds, allows for ordering of seeds and allows you to put some time and effort into laying out your garden.
Since I use the square foot gardening method, I have created a garden planner using Microsoft excel. It allows you layout your garden using the cells in excel, then based on what plants you choose it will calculate planting/harvest times, potential yields, how many seeds you will need and more.
The Garden planner is provided as is, I can and will answer questions on using it and I have made videos on using it. I am hoping to have a full updated version ready for 2019 planning season.