Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seed saving - not just for the frugal gardener

I'm a seed saver.  I began this habit back in my early gardening days when money was much tighter.  I realized early on that I could get a lot more bang for the buck in my flower garden by saving seeds from one year to plant the following year. 

I started out with simple annuals that were easily harvested and produced large quanities of seeds.  Some of those early flower seeds that I saved were from marigolds, calendulas, nasturtiums and sweet peas.  It through the trial and error of those early years that I learned how to save seeds properly and easily.

Aside from the benefit of cost, there are a number of other reasons to save seeds from your garden.  When you harvest seeds from your own garden, you are going to, over time, develop healthier plants that are specialized to your unique micro-climate.  In addition, todays garden center plants are often hybrids, which means that they cannot grow true from seeds.  If we come to rely only on hybrids, this could lead to the loss of many of the worlds food crops.  Not a good idea.  Groups like Seed Trust  Seed Savers Exchange and International Seed Saving Institute are working to save open pollinated, heirloom seeds and in turn working to save the diversity of our world food crops.

At home, saving seeds is easy.  Here's how I do it and you can too!

First you'll want to be sure the seed you are planning to save is from an open pollinated plant.  Hybrid plants will often produce seeds, but when planted these seeds will not produce a true clone of the parent plant and result in weak and unusable plants.  ****Note:  When purchasing seeds for your garden, you can check the seed packet information to see if your choice is an open pollinated variety.

Second, choose the best plant in the garden and allow it to go to seed.  I know my first instinct is to harvest the best looking plant, but I have to resist this urge for the benefit of next years garden.  If you harvest seed from the strongest plant, you will get strong seedlings.  Conversely if you choose that weak small plant, you will wind up with weak and small seedlings next year.

This year I decided to save seeds from my absolutely best and heartiest Romaine Lettuce plant.  I allowed this one plant to grow undisturbed and let it go to seed.  Lettuce produces seeds similar to a dandelion (they have furry fuzz floaties on them), so as the seed began to mature I kept a close eye on it.  Just as the majority of the flowers had the white fuzzies showing, I clipped the stem and brought the seed stalk indoors to complete the drying process. After 1 - 2 weeks of drying indoors it was ready for harvest.

Romaine Lettuce seeds ready for harvest

To harvest these seeds I simply pinched the floaty part of the flower and pulled it out from the seed pod, then I seperated the seed from the cottony part of the flower.  That's it!  How easy!

Romaine Lettuce seeds from 1 plant.  There's enough to share!

Next simply place the seeds in an envelope or zippered sandwich bag and store in a cool dry spot until next spring. *****Note:  don't seal up seeds until they are completely dry mildew will form and ruin your efforts.

Be sure to label your seeds well because many types of seeds do look similar. 

I also harvested some seeds from a Spaghetti squash given to me by another island gardener.  These I seperated from the stringy pulp and placed on a paper towel to dry for a week. 

A paper towel helps to absorb excess moisture when drying
 wet seeds and this helps to prevent molding

Be sure to note any important information on your bag such as
origination of the seeds

And growing information

I think once you try saving some of your own garden seeds, you will be hooked like me.  Your wallet, your garden and the earth will all benefit!

There are seedsaver groups around the world.  Check with your local gardening clubs if you want to participate in a seed exchange with other local gardeners.


  1. I really like this post. I'm printing it to save my pumpkin seeds!

  2. Great idea RedThreadDIY! You'll have enough seeds to plant a whole field of pumpkins :0)

  3. This reminds of my blacony plants. All grown from seeds out of fruit and vegetables out of the refrigerator. It started as just a little experiment. We were eating some really good tangerines and began to wonder if the seeds would grow, so we put them in some dirt. Next it was an apple, then bell pepper, then had a tomato going bad, was fixing to throw it out and thought why not. Now we have a balcony full of plants. All grown out of the refrigerator.

  4. That's awesome Samantha! I'm the same way. Will be blogging about some of my "experimental" fruit and veggie plants in the future. Great minds think alike :0)

  5. I bought some marigolds this past summer at Meijer, and still have a few of them in my garden (they're magically still alive!) - How would I get seeds from those (if possible)? They are just so pricey, and I'd love to just regrow them next year from the seeds. Thanks!

  6. Hi RedThreadDIY!

    Marigolds are super easy to grow from seed and to save seed too! Simply let some of the flowers go full term (don't deadhead).

    The flowery petals will begin to dry up as the seed in the green base of the flower becomes mature. You can pull off a flower with stem and cut one open to see what I mean.

    You'll know the seeds are mature when they have a black part and a white part inside.

    Next remove those seeds from the flower and dry them for a few days in a single layer on some newspaper or paper towel.

    Once you are sure they are completely dry, you can store them until next spring and then sow them directly in the ground.

    If you live in a short season area, you may want to start them in small pots indoors about 6 weeks before your last frost date and be sure to harden them off before planting them outdoors.

    Have fun!

  7. Thanks so much! I'll let you know how it goes :)


Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear what you think!


Share |
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Blog Archive