Saving seeds can be helpful for a more sufficient and independent garden or farm. By following easy instructions you can become a seed saver, true to the cause.
What Seeds To Grow
Open-Pollinated Seeds- Only by choosing open-pollinated seeds you can be sure you are using pure seed saving varieties that will stay true to the parental source. True to type seeds keep their distinct trait through generations as long as they are not cross pollinated with other varieties.
Choose Your Species- We recommend to learn about saving seeds by growing simple seed saving breeds that are of your favorite fruits, vegetables or culinary herbs. Get to know your species by learning about its flower structure and pollinating methods. Some plants are selfed, other flowers can only be pollinated by animals or wind and some plants have incompatible flowers and must be pollinated by insects. There are species like the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea), that have many types of vegetable that will cross pollinate each other, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and more.
Annual, biennial perennial plants- When choosing a variety to grow for seeds you must consider the life cycle of the plant. Annual plants like cucumbers and okra will flower and set seeds in the same year. Biennial plants like beets and carrots may flower only in the second growing year. Make sure to sow the seeds in the correct time. Perennial are mostly trees which produce fruit yearly.
Sowing For Seeds
Know Your Surrounding- Usually when growing only one variety of a particular species we can be close to certain we will keep our seed pure, they will not cross-pollinate with other varieties. But it is important to have a walk and inspect your surrounding and neighbors for plants that may cross with your plants.
Growing Duration- Growing plants for the dinner table usually takes less time than growing plants for seeds. Plan your season correctly so you can enjoy the fruits and the seeds of your labour.
Space Out Varieties- To prevent unwanted cross pollination between two varieties of the same species, make sure to space out varieties for true to type seed production. Some plants like beans, tomatoes and peas need only a few meters separation to stay pure, others wind pollinated crops like corn need to be spaced out. There are many ways to prevent pollen migration like barriers and cages, time isolation and hand pollination techniques.
Grow Enough Plants- If the population size of seeds crops are too small, in time, vigour germination and yield can get affected. Most plants need a bigger population size when growing for seeds.
Harvesting- Know when your seeds are mature. For wet crops like eggplant, cucumbers and squash, fruits are eaten premature, when the seeds are not ripe. For saving seeds leave a few fruits on the plant to ripen. For dry fruited crops like beans and root vegetables harvest when the seeds are fully dry and hard.
Processing and storing
Dry Processing- Dry fruited crops are harvested easily and brought indoors for further cleaning and drying. The seeds need to be separated from their shafts.
Wet Processing- Wet fruited crops, like tomatoes, need to be separated from their flesh and pulp before the seeds are dried.
Storing Your Seeds- Seeds should be stored in a cool dark and dry place. Humidity shifts harms the seeds fertility. A cool closet, basement or just the cooler part of the house will be sufficient. Seeds can stay strong for a year or two. Laboratories maintain seeds in refrigeration, using specially made bags, to keep them viable for a few more years.