Gardening is full of rewards- but it can be pretty expensive too. Especially when it comes to buying seeds! Seed saving is a great way to save money next season. Here at Rosevine Cottage, we use heirlooms, GMO-free and organic seeds which means the price adds up fast so seed saving is an absolute must.
For the beginning gardener or those new to the process of seed saving it can be a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! But what is seed saving anyway? Seed saving is the practice of saving seeds (or tubers) for annual plants to be used again the next year. This is the traditional way farmers and gardeners got their seeds for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the 20th century that there was a major shift toward buying seeds annually from commercial seed suppliers.
Is Seed Saving Legal?
In the US it’s illegal to save seeds from plants that have been patented, such as GMO plants. However heirloom seeds you can save to your heart content.
Heirloom, Hybrid & GMO Seeds What’s The Difference?
Heirloom seeds, hybrid seeds, and GMO Seeds? What’s the difference? Should I avoid one? Does it matter?
Heirloom seeds come from open-pollinated plants that pass their characteristics on to the next generation of plants. An Heirloom is the only kind that passes its specific characteristics on to the next generation.
A hybrid plant is the product of two varieties cross-pollinating. Because they are a hybrid they don’t pass on their unique characteristics to the next generations of plants. Choose “open-pollinated” plants to save the seeds from.
GMO seeds are not naturally created and require scientists to create them. Essentially scientists alter the DNA of the seeds to create the desired characteristics and traits.
Seed Saving Techniques
Saving Seeds: Beans & Pea
Beans and peas are super easy to save the seeds from. Select a plant or row of plants that are health mark them with a ribbon or string so you’ll remember which ones they are, and allow the beans or pods to dry out on the plant. When the pods have dried out and turned brown pick them, remove the seeds from the dried casings and store.
Saving Seeds: Guards, Squash & Melons
Pick the hardiest plant or fruit for seed, allow it to reach maturity on the vine. Pick the fruit and remove the seeds pulp and all. Place all of it in a quart or 1/2 gallon jar, add enough water to have floating room. Cover the jar with a towel. Stir twice daily to help the seeds separate from the pulp and let it sit for 2-4 days. The seeds that are good will sink to the bottom, at the end of the process remove any floating seeds and pulp. Drain the water from the jar and add fresh. Pour off any floating seeds. Repeat this step a couple of times. Drain the jar again and spread seeds out to dry ensuring none are touching. Spray with a GSE solution and allow to dry. You can leave them in the sunshine to dry or if you live somewhere where it rains a lot or is really humid place it in your dehydrator on the lowest setting.
Seed Saving: The Brassica and Cabbage Family
Pick the center of the head and allow the edges to go to seed, the bees love the flowers these plants produce. From those flowers seed pods form. Once the pods have dried cut them from the plant and bring inside to dry. Once they are dry shell and store seeds.
Saving Tomato Seeds
Saving tomato seeds is pretty straight forward, allow the fruit you are going to save for seeds to stay on the vine until very ripe. Slice the tomatoes and squeeze the seeds into a jar. Follow the same fermenting method as with the guards. Spread seeds out to dry far enough apart that they won’t touch for at least two days.
Seed Saving: Pepper
Leave the healthiest fruit on the plant to ripen, cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Spread out on a piece of paper or dehydrator rack, make sure they aren’t touching. Dry for 2-4 days in a warm dry place. Package and store the seeds. *if you are working with spicy pepper wear disposable gloves*
Seed Saving: Okra
Okra is another plant that is really easy to save the seeds from. Choose a healthy plant as you did with the beans and peas, mark them with a ribbon or string. Leave the okra to mature and dry on the stalks, when they have turned brown pick. Shuck the pods and remove the seeds.
Storing Seeds From Your Garden
Once you’ve finished your seed saving and gotten all of your seeds dry. Store them in a tightly sealed jar or seed envelopes. Seeds should be kept in a cool dry place that is free from rodents. A good temperature to keep them is between 32-41 degrees F. Some people store their seeds in the refrigerator.
A small amount of silica-gel desiccant can help you keep the moisture down and your seeds dry. You can also try a tablespoon or so of milk powder from a freshly opened container, in a piece of cheesecloth or tissue. Place it in the jar with the seeds, powdered milk will absorb the moisture for six months or so.
Label your seeds with the name, type and the date you saved them with a permanent marker or something that won’t wipe off. Use your seeds within 1-5 years, after the first year they begin to degrade, so its best to use them within the first couple of years.
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