Seed saving is something I have done kind of intermittently in the past, but I’m trying to do more it. With so many questionable seed sources these days, I think it’s a good idea.
Saving seeds from our favorite vegetables allows me to maintain a continuous supply of heirloom seeds for my own use, plus I can share or trade the seeds with others, keeping these plants in cultivation.
I’ve successfully saved seeds from veggies like basil, daikon, lettuce, and radish, as well as flower seeds like zinnia, marigold, and nasturtium.
The technique varies a bit from veggie to veggie, but allowing one or two plants to go to seed is a good idea if you’d like to save some money on seeds and continue to have a steady source of seeds to plant.
What does that mean, though, letting veggies go to seed? It means that you’re allowing the plant to complete its life cycle rather than harvesting before it has a change to do so.
A vegetable plant’s sole purpose is to regenerate. Most of them do so by creating seed to perpetuate the life cycle, but we often harvest vegetables before they have a chance go to seed.
Saving seeds from your garden
Instead of pulling that radish or lettuce for lunch, leave it in the ground and allow it to flower. For root crops and greens, the flowers are typically followed by pods.
When the pods get fat and look like they’re starting to dry out, it’s time to pull the plant and let the seed pods thoroughly dry.
Hang them in the eaves, tuck them into a container; just be sure to put them someplace where they’ll stay cool and dry.
Once the pods are thoroughly dried out, break them open to reveal the next generation of seeds.
When saving seeds from plants that produce fruit (rather than leaves or edible roots), the seeds are inside the fruit itself.
Think about peas and green beans. Shelling peas have fully formed peas — seeds — inside. Green beans are most tender when harvested young, but left to mature, those green beans will produce beans that look suspiciously like the green bean seeds you planted.
Pumpkins, cucumbers, and squash have visible seeds inside. If you intend to save seeds from these crops, allow the fruit to mature completely, which will in turn allow the seeds to mature.
To save these seeds, separate them from the pods or the flesh of the vegetable and allow them to dry.
Hybrid vs. heirloom seeds
If you’re interested in saving some of your garden seeds, note that heirloom seeds or open-pollinated seeds will “come true” from year to year.
In other words, you’ll end up with a plant with the same characteristics from year to year.
This is not true with hybrid seeds. Hybrid seeds may very well sprout, but certain qualities that may have been valuable in the first generation might be lost in subsequent generations.
More Seed Saving Resources
- How to save tomato seeds (saving tomato seeds is quite different than the method I shared above)
- How to save basil seeds
- How to save seeds from peppers
Have done any seed saving? What have you had the most luck with?