You Must Preserve and Store Seeds From Your Garden

One of my many failures as a novice gardener was my greenery planting seeds. Instead of picking bunches of carefully groomed cabbage and lettuce, I waited too long and collected, well, nothing.

However, it turns out that getting seeds from vegetables is not so bad. You can ( and probably should ) save some seeds for future seasons. Here’s how to collect, preserve, and store seeds in your garden.

Choose the right seeds

First, you need to know which seeds can actually be stored and stored. The University of Minnesota extension has a handy guide to the plants that are easiest to harvest seeds from: in general, tomatoes, peppers, and beans are good choices because they self-pollinate.

Hybrid varieties and cross-pollinated plants (plants with separate male and female flowers) are more difficult to work with because the seeds are likely to develop into plants that are different from the pure parent plant. You can use these seeds, but your results will be less predictable.

You can penetrate the weeds (pun intended) while saving seeds by isolating the plants specifically for the seeds, as shown in this seed saving chart . But if you’re a beginner, following some general guidelines will likely give you at least a few things to work on in the next season.

Collect and dry seeds

In some cases, harvesting the seeds is as easy as scooping out the inside of fruits and vegetables before eating them. However, some plants do not ripen when they are harvested and eaten, which means that you will have to sacrifice some by leaving them in the ground or on a vine to collect the seeds. Greens usually produce seeds after the plant has faded, and beans and pea seeds dry best if the pods remain on the plant.

The Seed Conservation Guide in the Old Farmer’s Almanac explains how to harvest different types of plants, as well as how to prepare seeds for storage.

Make sure you only choose healthy plant seeds. Seeds can carry bacteria and disease, and planting infected seeds will turn out to be an immediate failure. If you suspect infestation, there are several methods for cleaning your seeds, but it is best to keep them healthy to begin with.

Once you have collected the seeds, you will want to dry them for storage. Some seeds, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, need to be fermented first. The Almanac Seed Conservation Guide has specific instructions for each plant.

Store seeds in airtight containers.

Seeds are best stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark and dry place. You can also refrigerate the seeds or even freeze them . Store each species in a separate container – small glass jars or even recycled pill bottles will do.

Be sure to label containers with the name, variety, date, and any other information about the plants from which you collected the seeds.

How long to keep seeds

Some seeds can be stored safely for only a year (onions and shallots), while others (tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini) can last five or more if stored properly.

When you’re ready to plant next season, you can use trial and error to determine if your seeds are good, or you can run the germination test recommended by the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Place 10 seeds of the same variety on a damp paper towel, fold the towel, place it in a Ziploc bag, and place the bag in a warm place. After about a week, check how much has sprouted. If there are most of them, great – your seeds are still germinating, and happy sowing!

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