Saving garden seeds is easy and inexpensive. I began saving seeds in law school as a way to save money. I bought an organic acorn squash at the local grocery. I ate the squash and dried the seeds. Over the summer, I planted the seeds and I harvested 75 squash to take back to school with me. My supply of squash lasted me the entire school year!
And, saving seeds from plants you love allows you to reproduce your favorite plants over and over again without spending a dime. (Hint* If your plant is a hybrid, plants produced by their seed may look or taste completely different. Look at the plant tag or the seed packet to determine whether your plant is a hybrid. To reproduce identical plants from seed, use heirloom seeds or plants. )
Coneflower seed head
Coneflower seed heads
In order to save seeds from a flowering plant you must stop deadheading to allow the flowers to mature into seed heads. When the flowers shrivel up, seed heads or seed pods will become evident. Allow the seed heads or seed pods to mature and dry on the plant. If the seed heads or seed pods are on a plant that will drop its seeds, like petunias, or blow away, like garden thistle, simple place a piece of nylon stocking over the seed pod or seed head and secure it with garden twine to catch the seeds.
Collecting seeds from a seed head is as simple as snipping the seed head off the flower and shaking or pulling the seeds off . To collect the seeds from a seed pod, however, you remove the pod from the flower stem, open it, and shake the seeds into a container. Or, snip the seed pod off the plant and allow it to fall directly into a paper bag. Seal the top of the paper bag and shake it vigorously. This will shake the seeds lose from the seed pod. Then gather the seeds from the bottom of the bag and place them in a container or envelope. Store in a cool dry area.
If there is moisture remaining on the seeds, such as from dew or precipitation, allow the seeds to dry completely for a few days to a week in a brown paper bag prior to putting them in a sealed container or envelope. Or, lay a paper towel or clean cloth on a cookie sheet and place the seeds in a single layer on cookie tray. Let the seeds dry in a dim, dry, cool area for a week or more before placing the seeds into a container or an envelope. Finally, label the envelope or container and store in a cool dry place.
Seeds from vegetables are generally harvested from the fruit itself, however there are exceptions. Some of the easiest plants to harvest seeds from is the squash or the pumpkin. Simply cut open the pumpkin or squash and remove the seeds and the pulp. Next place the seeds and pulp in a kitchen strainer and wash them with cool water. Continue to rinse under cool water until all the pulp is removed and the seeds are clean. Spread a paper towel or clean cloth on a cookie pan and spread the seeds out in a single layer on the pan careful to remove any small, damaged, or immature seeds. Leave the seeds to dry in a dim, dry, cool place for a week or two. Then transfer the seeds into a clean jar or envelope. Don’t forget to label your container.
Tomato seeds can be saved using the same process as pumpkin or squash. Simply cut open a tomato and squeeze the seeds and pulp out into a strainer. Tomato seeds are much tinier than pumpkin seeds so use a strainer with a fine grid. Rinse them under cool water until the seeds are clean and all the pulp is removed. Lay the cleaned seeds out on a clean cloth or paper towel and allow to dry for a week or two. Periodically during the drying process, run your hands over the seeds to separate the seeds into a single layer to dry completely as the seeds tend to stick together when wet. You can also follow a more rigorous process called fermentation for tomato seeds that I found on Permaculture Research Institute website. I have never tried this method of saving seeds but I’d love to hear your thoughts about this process if you try it.
Carrots and celery, both of which are Biennials , are among a group of vegetables whose seeds are harvested like those of flowering plants, but are harvested after the second year’s growth. The tops of these plants flower and set seed after the second year. To thoroughly dry the seed heads, cut the seed heads from the plant and place the whole seed head in a brown paper bag up to a week to finish drying. When the seed heads are thoroughly dry, shake the bag to release the seeds from the seed heads. Gather the seeds from the bottom of the bag and place them in an envelope or jar to be kept for planting the following year.
These are just a few suggestions on saving seeds for a few different flowers and vegetables. If you have questions about saving seeds from specific plants, don’t hesitate to do a quick online search on trusted sites. Saving seeds is easy, it saves money, and it allows you to reproduce your favorite plants. But remember, hybrid plants don’t reproduce by seed to create an identical plant, but heirloom seeds do, so try ordering seeds from heirloom seed suppliers like Harvesting History
Good luck and Happy Gardening!
Quote of the Day
“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”
-Gertrude Jekyll, British horticulturalist and writer