How to save seeds from your garden

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Did you have success with something you planted in your garden this year? Or maybe there was a particular fruit or vegetable variety you loved and want to plant again next year. Either way, saving seed can save you money, give you access to your favorite heirloom varieties and ensure your success next season.

What to save

Not all fruit and vegetable varieties are suitable for saving seeds. Here are some rules to follow:

  • Only save seeds from heirloom varieties that have been around for a few generations as they produce fruits identical to the parent plant. Some heirlooms include Brandywine or Amish Paste tomatoes, Kentucky Wonder or Blue Lake green beans, Green Arrow peas and Danvers Half-Long carrots.
  • Don’t save hybrid varieties as they will not produce a genetically true fruit — its fruits will resemble one of the plants used to create it.
  • Save seeds from only the best plants and fruits — save the seeds from the biggest juiciest fruits and the plants that produce the most fruits.

Harvesting seed

Wait until the fruit is ripe and the seeds are mature to harvest seeds. Some fruits and vegetables are easy because they aren’t typically picked until they’re ripe, like tomatoes. However, others are more difficult because they are enjoyed before they are fully ripe. For example, seeds from cucumbers shouldn’t be harvested until the fruit has turned yellow and seeds from peppers shouldn’t be harvested until the fruit has turned red.

Drying seeds for storage

Dry seeds. Saving dry seeds from peas and beans is simple. Separate the seeds from the fruit of the plant and let them dry on small frames with nylon mesh screen. Using screen allows the air to circulate around the seeds and prevents mold from moisture collecting under them. Allow seeds to dry in a cool, dry area for about a week before storing.

Wet seeds. Seeds from tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and melons that are encased in a gel medium require a little more work to dry out before storing. The gel they are surrounded in contains germination inhibitors that prevent the seed from sprouting. Before removing them from the gel completely, scoop the gel and seeds from the fruit into a jar about half full of water. Swish the mixture around and place the jar in a cool location. Shake the gas 2-3 times a day for three or four days. Then strain the mixture and rinse the remaining seeds. Once the gel has been rinsed away completely, allow the seeds to dry on small frames with nylon mesh screen for at least a week.

Storing seeds

After your seeds are completely dry you’ll want to store them in paper envelopes in a cool, dry place. Storing them in paper is preferred to plastic because it is breathes and doesn’t trap moisture. Be sure to label your seed packets with the variety name, sow date and harvest date.



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