One of the best ways to save money is to save seeds! Now only does this mean you’re growing your own food, but you’re not spending $3+/packet for new seeds every year. Not to mention there’s something really cool about the idea of passing down seeds that have been growing in your garden for years (if not decades!) In this article, we will cover the top seed saving techniques that will help you get the most out of your garden. From wet to dry seed saving, storing your seeds, testing your seeds, to sharing them, we will guide you on everything you need to know to become a seed-saving expert.
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Why Save Seeds?
One of the main reasons why gardeners save seeds is to save money – there’s no better way to garden on a budget! Buying new seeds every year can add up quickly, especially if you want to plant a diverse range of vegetables and fruits. When you save your seeds, you can simply harvest them from your plants and store them for future use. This means that you won’t have to spend as much on seeds in the long run.
Another benefit of seed saving is that it allows you to preserve your favorite plant varieties. When you buy seeds from a store, you are limited to the selection that they offer. However, when you save seeds from your own plants, you can choose the strongest and healthiest plants to save seeds from. One of my best examples of this are my zinnias – I have the biggest, most beautiful zinnias because I’ve been saving the best seeds from them for four years now.
Seed saving also helps to preserve genetic diversity in plants. When we rely on commercially produced seeds, we are often growing plants that have been specifically bred for certain traits, such as size or yield. This can lead to a loss of genetic diversity over time, which can be a problem if a particular disease or pest starts to affect those plants. By saving seeds from a diverse range of plants, we can help to maintain genetic diversity and ensure that we have plants that are resistant to a wide range of environmental stressors particular to your area.
Overall, seed saving is a rewarding and cost-effective technique that can help you get the most out of your garden. By following the seed saving techniques outlined in this article, you can start to build up a collection of high-quality seeds that will help you to grow healthy and productive plants for years to come.
Wet Seed Saving
Wet Seed Saving is a technique used for certain plant species that require a different approach to seed saving. Unlike dry seed saving, where you wait for the seeds to fully mature and dry out before harvesting, wet seed saving involves harvesting the seeds while they are still in the fruit or seed pod but have reached full maturity.
This technique is suitable for plants such as squashes, cucumbers, and tomatoes, which have fleshy fruits that house the seeds. To start, you need to collect the fruits or seed pods when they are ripe and have turned a uniform color. Cut the fruits open and remove the seeds, then rinse to remove any remaining pulp or debris.
After rinsing, lay the seeds out to dry. This process can take anywhere from a couple days to a week, depending on the humidity in your area. Once the seeds are completely dry, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them.
What Plants Do You Wet Seed Save for?
As mentioned above, wet seeds are those seeds that mature inside of a moist fruit such as the seeds of squash, tomato, peppers, and melons. You want the fruit to fully ripe (or even overripe!) before you collect the seeds. The best thing about this is you’re often collecting seeds without even realizing it! You just need that extra step of saving them. For example, the next time you cut up a butternut squash for dinner and scrap out the seeds, don’t toss them! Rinse them off and drop them onto a paper towel. Once dry, grab a paper bag and save them for planting season. You’ll have more butternut squash seeds than you know what to do with!
Dry Seed Saving
Dry Seed Saving is another popular technique used by gardeners to preserve seeds for future planting. Unlike wet seed saving, this method involves allowing the seeds to dry out on their plants completely before harvesting them.
To start the process, you need to leave the plant on the stem until the seeds have fully matured and turned brown or black. You can then cut off the seed heads and place them into a paper bag or envelope. Make sure to label the container with the plant variety and date of harvesting.
Next, place the bag or envelope in a cool, dry place and allow the seeds to dry out completely. You can check the seeds periodically to ensure they are fully dry before storing them. Once they are dry, remove any debris or chaff and transfer the seeds to an airtight container, such as a glass jar or plastic bag.
Dry seed saving is suitable for a wide variety of plant species, including beans, peas, and many flowers, making it a convenient method for gardeners who want to preserve seeds from multiple plants. Click the image below to watch a video on how easy it is to save zinnia seeds!
Storing Your Seeds
Now that you’ve saved your seeds, it’s time to think about storage. Proper seed storage is essential for maintaining the longevity and viability of your seeds. When seeds are exposed to light, moisture, or extreme temperatures, their quality can quickly deteriorate. Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines to help you store your seeds correctly.
Firstly, store your seeds in a cool, dry place. A temperature of 32-41°F is ideal for most seeds, so a refrigerator or cool, dry basement is a great option. Avoid storing seeds in places with high humidity or fluctuating temperatures, such as a garage or attic.
Additionally, ensure that your seeds are completely dry before storing them. Excess moisture can cause seeds to mold or rot, ruining your entire seed collection. To check if your seeds are dry, snap one in half. If they break cleanly, they are dry enough to store.
Lastly, label your seeds properly and ideally store them in airtight containers. That said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use mostly brown paper bags to store my seeds. Once I know they’re fully dry, they go into labeled brown bags and those goes into a gallon-sized baggy. Whatever method you do, the less air, heat, and moisture, the better.
Testing Your Seeds
The glorious time has come – time to test the seeds you saved from last year! Testing your seeds will give you an idea of how many of them will grow and produce a harvest, allowing you to plan and purchase additional seeds if needed.
One way to test your seeds is to place them in a glass jar of water and let them sit for 15 minutes. Any seeds that sink are good to use, any that float should probably be tossed. This method does NOT work with squash seeds, as they almost always all float.
Another way to test your seeds is to take a small sample from your collection and place them in a damp paper towel. Keep the towel in a warm and dark location, making sure to keep it moist. After a few days, check to see if the seeds have germinated. If they have, then you can assume that the remaining seeds in your collection are probably viable.
If the seeds do not germinate, it’s possible that they were not properly stored or were too old. You can try testing another sample or purchase new seeds for future planting.
Testing your seeds is an essential step in ensuring a successful harvest. It allows you to have confidence in the seeds you are planting and ensures that you are not wasting your time and effort on seeds that won’t grow.
Once you know you have viable seeds, you’ll probably find you have more than you know what to do with. What a great opportunity to share and swap seeds!
Sharing and Swapping Your Saved Seeds
Once you’ve successfully saved and tested your seeds, why not share your bounty with others? Seed sharing is an ancient tradition that has become increasingly important as more people turn to gardening and farming as a means of sustainability.
Sharing seeds not only benefits your community by providing them with healthy, locally-sourced plants, but it also helps to preserve plant diversity. Seed sharing can introduce people to new and unique varieties, allowing them to experiment and cultivate different plants. It also promotes a sense of community and connectedness while encouraging people to work together towards a common goal.
There are a variety of ways to share your seeds with others. You can start small by simply sharing some seeds with your friends and neighbors. You could even organize a seed swap or plant exchange in your community to connect with more people and get a wider variety of seeds. At our local library, we even have a “seed library” where people can take and donate seeds! I would also recommend looking Facebook, as many towns and cities have groups dedicated to gardening.
By saving seeds, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest year after year while saving money and promoting biodiversity. From wet seed saving to testing and sharing your seeds, hopefully you know now that it’s not nearly as daunting as it might seem. In fact, I can guarantee that once you start this process, you will ABSOLUTELY end up with more seeds than you ever thought possible (with plenty leftover to share!)