There are many reasons why you might choose to save seeds from your vegetable garden to plant the following year. You may be concerned with the 90% decline in genetic biodiversity in our global food crops since 1900. You may be suspicious of manufactured hybrid seeds and genetic engineering or you may just be looking for a good way to save some money and put good food on your table year after year.
Seed saving is a worthwhile skill to have. It doesn’t take any special equipment nor is it difficult and the seeds are from plants that have already grown in your soil conditions at your home so they are custom made for your garden.
Tips for seed saving
- Make sure seeds are totally dry before storing them. Consider saving the silica desiccant packages from packets of food throughout the year and pop one in with your seeds to absorb unwanted moisture
- Store saved seeds in paper envelopes instead of plastic to allow the seeds to breathe and prevent them from sweating and going mouldy.
- Store seeds in a cool, dry dark place protected from rodents
- Name seeds and date them clearly
- Choose plants carefully and save seed from your best plants to preserve the qualities that made it a great plant. If you grow a particularly tasty tomato or a superb tasting pumpkin consider setting aside the seeds to increase the chances of more tasty crops.
- Never save seeds from plants that are unhealthy.
- Don’t try saving seeds from hybrid varieties (usually they have an F1 or F2 after their name) they won’t stay true to type when planted again.
Beans and Peas
Beans and peas are probably the easiest seeds to get saving. Beans and peas need to be picked and eaten regularly to encourage more beans to grow on the vine so it is best to wait until you have eaten your fill. To save beans and peas leave the plants in the ground and let the pods dry out and go yellow on the vine. When they are nice and dry open them up and collect the dry seeds from inside. Lay them out somewhere warm to dry out more and then store in a paper envelope somewhere dark, dry and rodent free.
Flowering Veges like carrots, spinach, lettuce and silver beet etc.
Let the plant get all ugly and bolt to seed in your garden. Wait until the flower has begun to get nice and dry then place a paper bag over the seed head and secure it to the plant with a rubber band then pick the plant and hang upside down to let the seeds fall into the bag.
Let the pumpkin mature on the vine and harvest once the leaves die back. To harvest the seeds cut the pumpkin open and scoop out the seeds. Rinse the stringy pulp off them and them dry in a warm place for a few days.
The zucchini needs to be mature. Let it grow into a big marrow and pick when the skin starts to go dull. Halve the marrow and scoop out the seeds. Rinse the pulp off them and dry them in a warm place for a few days.
There are 2 ways to store tomato seeds. The easiest way is to squeeze the pulp from a ripe tomato into a sieve and rinse off the pulp then spread on a paper towel to dry off. When planting you can just tear off little squares of paper with the seed attached and plant it.
You can also ferment the seeds in jars. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the pulp out into a little jar (baby food jars are perfect) cover the seeds with some water and then put the lid on with some holes pierced in it or cover with pierced glad wrap. Leave in a warm place for a few days until a scum forms on top. Scoop the scum off and discard then rinse off the seeds that collect on the bottom of the jar. Non-viable seeds tend to float on top and can be discarded with the scum. Dry seeds on a paper towel for a few days and store.
Chillies and capsicums
Let a vegetable mature and dry on the plant. Do this late in the season because leaving vegetables on the plant discourages further fruiting and we don’t want that! Once ready simply cut them open and remove the seeds. Dry the seed out for a few more days then store
A note about cross pollination:
‘True to Type is a phrase that comes up a lot with regards to saving seed. It’s important to make sure that the seeds you have lovingly saved and planted next year will stay true to their parent plant and not be some sort of funky mixture. Some plants are notorious for cross pollinating with other members of their family, these include brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts) Beets (silver beet and beetroot) Pumpkins and Zucchinis. The easiest way to avoid this is to try and have only one variety of these plants flowering at any one time. Or you could get a small paintbrush and have a go at doing the bee’s job for them by brushing the pollen from the stamen of a male flower on to the female flower and tying the flower shut to avoid contamination. Or you could just stick to beans and tomatoes!
For seed saver envelopes click here.
For more information visit: