Whether you reasons to save seeds are to save money on gardening next year or to continue growing heirloom plants (or both!), I want to share a few tips on how to get started.
As I will give examples later, you will find that seed saving can be a great activity to get your kids involved in gardening as well. Obviously, you need to have plants or fruits that you can harvest seeds from in order to do this or you can find out if you want to save seeds from fruits from a Farmer’s Market just by asking a few questions.
In order to save your own seeds you either let the plants grow out past harvest and “go to seed,” which is what I did with the cilantro and radish plants pictured. In other instances, you want to allow your fruits or vegetables to grow larger to collect the best seeds (like peas, beans, zucchini, etc.)
The first tip I have to share with you is to make sure that you start out with dry seeds. The cilantro seeds pictured above (or you can harvest those seeds when they are dry for coriander) are still green and I will let them sit out for a few weeks to completely dry and then will transfer them to a paper packet.
The radish seeds below have been dried and are ready to have me break open the pods and collect the seeds for storage. I will generally let those seeds dry outside of the pods for a little while longer to ensure they are dry. If your seeds are not dry all the way they will mold and your seeds will not be usable.
After you are confident they are completely dry, it is advisable to store them in a paper packet or envelope which allows the seeds to still breathe and air out, which is good in case they were not dried completely, and makes them easy to label. If I am out of paper packets, I will store them in old baby food jars and other small glass or plastic containers I am reusing if I am sure they are dry.
Next tip is to make sure you store them in a cool, dry location. A basement is a great place to store them, especially if there is an unheated area (in the case of a finished basement.) One word of warning though, is that mice that make their way in to your home may find your seeds a tasty treat, in which case you might want to make sure they are completely dry and store them in a mice-proof storage container.
Kids will love to help you harvest the seeds and then plant the seeds they harvested again the next spring. It is a great learning opportunity to teach then about a plant’s life cycle. The seeds in the plastic containers above were ones my daughter harvested from some beans and pea plants from our gardens.
If you end up with an excess amount of seeds that you have saved, consider sharing them with a friend to help them get their garden started or swap seeds with each other. You may even want to think about having a seed swap party with your friends, which could be expanded to include plants that need to be divided.
Do you save seeds? What tips do you have?