Save Seeds From Your Garden Favorites

by Halley -Author at MIGardener

Seed saving gives you access to a never-ending supply of your favorite garden varieties. Learning how to harvest and save seeds from your heirloom varieties is the best way to go! You can save seeds from hybrid varieties, but only if you want to discover a different variety from the original plant. With heirloom varieties, cross-pollination can complicate things slightly.

Now, let's get into the "how-to" of seed saving for different varieties.

Flowering Plants (Roots, Leafy Greens, Herbs, Celery)

 

Plants harvested for their roots, leaves, or stems all show their seeds after becoming fully mature at the end of their growing cycle. Varieties like carrots, broccoli, and lettuce send up shoots of flowers. Once the flowers fully dry out, the seeds inside of them will be perfectly ready for storage! Normally the seeds are already dried with these varieties and require no further drying.

Legumes (Beans, peas)

 

 

Legumes like beans and peas are normally harvested young. Younger fruits in these varieties are more tender and flavorful. To harvest seeds from them, leave them on the plant until they reach full maturity. Once they reach full maturity, leave them on the plant until the fruits are completely dried and papery in texture. Pull the pods off of the plant and shell the beans or peas into an airtight container. If you detect any moisture on the beans, leave them out to dry before closing the container. You don't want to risk rotting your seeds. Dried beans will keep for many years, but you'll have the best luck with germination in the first two years after saving.

Nightshade (minus goop)

 

Pepper and eggplants are two nightshades whose seeds are not surrounded by gel. Their lack of gel-like casing makes it much easier to save seeds from them! Leave peppers on the plant until they reach their maximum size. Pop off the tops of the peppers and shake the seed out onto a napkin to dry. For Eggplants, leave the fruit on the plant until it reaches maximum maturity. Cut the fruit in half and slice out clumps of fruit that contain seeds. Most of the seeds will pop out easily and can be dried, but rinsing the seeds off of the fruit with water may be helpful.

Note: Avoid cross-pollination with the use of blossom bags. Place blossom bags over a cluster of flowers and shake to pollinate until fruit set. This ensures your heirloom varieties will stay the same. 

Fermented Seeds (Tomato, melon, cucumbers)

 

Tomatoes, melons, and cucumber seeds have a protective gel coating. Ferment the seed before the drying process to avoid rot. Leave fruits that you want to seed save from on the plant until they are ripe - they will be well past the point where they would be pleasant to eat. Waiting for them to grow bigger makes sure that the seeds are full size. Remove the seeds and add them to a jar. Fill the jar halfway with water and leave it out for two days while the gel ferments off. Left too long, the seeds will rot. If you have a problem with fruit flies, fermenting lids are very helpful here. After two days, discard any seeds that have floated to the top. Floating seeds are not viable. Strain and rinse the rest of the seeds before dying them on a paper towel.

Note: Avoid cross-pollination with the use of blossom bags. Place blossom bags over a cluster of flowers and shake to pollinate until fruit set. This ensures your heirloom varieties will stay the same. 

Storage

 

After your seeds are dehydrated, place the seeds in a plastic bag, glass jar, or any airtight container. Label your airtight container with the name of each variety, the date, and whether or not they are potentially cross-pollinated. To learn more about pollination, click here. Store in a cool, dry, dark place. Saved seeds are at their highest quality their first year. Some gardeners have had success saving seeds for over 10 years!

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– Kaitlynn from MIgardener

This blog post was inspired by Roots & Refuge Farm; watch their awesome video for more info!

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