Having access to great garden seeds is very valuable. They are even more valuable if they are specifically for your particular area. High quality seeds are a bargain when you figure up the cost of the end product and how much you save and the added nutritional value.
When you get to the stage of where you want to start collecting and storing garden seeds from your own vegetable garden, the following tips will really help.
Ensure you read the label and get Heirloom seeds to plant and harvest their seeds as these will be the same type of plant as their parents.
Easy to Save Seeds
Tomato – Save these seeds from fully ripe fruits of your favorite plants. Scoop out the seeds and spread them onto a paper towel. Let the seeds sit on the paper towel until dry. Take them once dry and rub off the excess fruit. You can wash the excess fruit off by using a strainer and gently wash them. If you do this, still put them on a paper towel and let them completely dry.
Pepper Plants – Pick a pepper that is fully mature. You want it to begin turning red before harvesting it. Pretty much follow the instructions for Tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds, place on a paper towel till dry. Gently rub off the excess fruit once dry. You can also wash off the fruit from the seeds using a strainer with very small holes. Also, if you are any type of allergic to these, wear rubber gloves.
Eggplant – These are easy to save. Just take out and let them dry completely.
Beans and Peas – Wait till you can hear the pods rattling on the bean stalk before harvesting. You want them really dry yet still on the plant. Now some beans and peas once dry will split and they’ll drop all over the place. So watch them real carefully.
Harvest them and let them dry out a few more days till they are really dry. Then remove the seeds. You might get a weevil infestation but it is easily prevented by freezing the seeds in your freezer for at least 24 hours and preferably about 48 hours. Put them in as airtight as possible plastic bag first.
Lettuce – These are just a little harder as you have to let the plant produce stalks. You’ll see the heads turn into a dandelion head and then you’ll be able to gather the seeds. Just rub them these heads between your fingers and the seeds will fall out.
Hard to Save Seeds
Vine Crops – Cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and squash are almost not worth saving the seeds as they will cross-pollinate with different varieties of plants.
You might get cucumbers crossing with pumpkins. No you won’t get a cucumkin or something weird. They just won’t grow fruit. Once they have cross-pollinated, they won’t grow as well.
And worse, you won’t know that they have cross-pollinated. Good news is that muskmelons don’t cross-pollinate so they are good to go.
If you want to try this, you’ll have to very carefully control the pollination process. Some people love to practice this. First step is to identify the difference between the female and male flowers.
Female flowers are shorter then males and have a small miniature like flower at their base. You’ll have to watch these very carefully and be ready to act as soon as they open the first time.
When you think that they will open the next day it is time for action. That evening using either a paper clip or rubber band, gently pinch the flower bud on top so it can’t open up. They will try to open real early so don’t wait. Once you see a few of them opening you’ll know it’s time to take action.
Take the male blossom and pick it off. You’ll see in the center of this blossom a cluster of pollen that’s called anthers and you need to touch this to the center of the female blossom which is the stigma.
Now close the female flower and use your paper clip or rubber band to close it back up. You don’t want bees or other animals introducing any other pollen and fertilizing them.
You can tag the blossom if you are really into this. Keep the flower closed and it will start turning into fruit. You are safe at this point.
Once the fruit is completely ripe you can harvest and save the seeds by scooping out the seeds and letting dry completely. You want cucumbers to turn yellow entirely before harvesting.
All of the others must be entirely ripe before harvesting. With good preparation and luck you’ll have some great seeds for next year.
Very Hard Seeds to Save
Biennials – Plants like carrots, beets, onion and cabbages are a lot more difficult to save their seeds. They don’t make seed until the second year after you have planted them.
Cabbages will cross with each other regardless of cultivar and also plants like cress, radish, turnip or mustard along with their wild cousins that you didn’t know you had growing close by.
Due to the way they grow and pollinate, you’ll have to grow them for two years and just wait till they mature and form a seed stalk. Once the seed head forms you can harvest them and dry the seeds completely.
Controlling pollination of these is very hard. Growing them in a greenhouse or indoors is your best bet if you really want the seeds to be true to the variety you have grown.
Saving Flower Seeds
You can save flower seeds pretty much like vegetable seeds. Wait till the flower matures and collect the seeds. With flowers there’s a good chance they will cross-pollinate with other varsities so you’ll not get great results. Growing indoors or a greenhouse is the best bet if you want the original type of flowers.
For sunflowers, try to keep the birds off of them until mature. Once birds start eating the seeds, cut off the heads and let them finish growing and dry out completely.
Label a container with the seeds name, variety and date you harvested them. Keep the containers in a dry, cool place. You can place the seeds in a jar and seal it tightly. Put the jar in your icebox or freezer.
A bag filled with powered, dry milk will absorb any moisture left in the seeds. About a 1/2 cup of this will do. Make sure the dry milk is fresh.
Seed Storage Life
- Short-lived – Corn, onions, parsley, pepper and parsnip will store for about one to two years.
- Medium-lived – Asparagus, bean, spinach, broccoli, carrot, celery, leek and pea seeds may be stored for three to four years.
- Long-lived – These seeds may last for four to five years. Beet, chard, cabbages, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, musk-melon, pumpkin, radish, turnip, tomato and watermelon.
So you’ve carefully controlled pollination and stored your seeds and are now ready to plant them. You’ll want to test germination first so you don’t waste time with seed that does not grow.
- Take a couple layers of paper towels and moisten them.
- Put about 25 seeds on the towels and roll them up real tight.
- Put this in a plastic bag.
- Place the plastic bag somewhere warm like your kitchen counter or on top of a water heater. Make sure you don’t start a fire if your water heater is fueled by gas. I like to put mine on top of the icebox.
- Radish will germinate in two or three days. Some like peppers take 10 to 14. Check the seeds every two days and see what results you get.
Seed Collecting Conclusion
Collecting and storing vegetable garden seeds is easy, attention to detail is the most likely cause of failure. You can get your kids involved in this and show them some fun activities on how life works.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Author Bio: Just-John grows all kinds of vegetables and loves it. He writes about all his discoveries and they can be found here. Along with vegetable gardening, he loves mowing grass and wood-working.