Collecting and Saving Vegetable Seeds – Tips and Lessons learned in Seed Saving

In my never ending quest to be more gentle to the earth I’m looking for new things to do. And if I am going to change careers into permaculture and garden design I am going to find ways to make money. Enter vegetable seed saving. My wife has even joined in this year. Now this is really the first year that we’ve started saving seeds. And I’ll follow up in the spring and let you know how they all worked out. I wanted to do a test run before we ever start selling seeds. They have to work.

Obviously the logic behind this is saving money and resources. I probably spend somewhere around $50 on seeds in the spring. I don’t think we’ll ever get away from not buying any though. In our neighborhood we have something called Seedy Saturday in the spring where locals sell their seeds and other early spring wares. It’s wonderful and so crazy all in the same. And if you think about getting $3 for 20 seeds that really cost you nothing to collect, it’s a great deal. People are getting local produce seeds at a reasonable price and I am making a bit of a living. So not only do we save money, but we can make money at this if seed saving is done right too.

Seeds we have saved so far:

  • Acorn Squash
  • Patty Pan Squash
  • Red Peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Cantaloupe

Sure, it’s not that much but we’ll have enough seeds from our winter eating (we get most of our produce from the Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD) service so we can be sure that we are saving quality, organic seeds.

One thing I’m not too sure on is the open-pollenated vs heirloom vs hybrid seed varieties. I have been doing some research on it and found the following:

Open-pollenated has two flavours. Self pollenated and cross pollenated. Self pollenated means that they can pollenate themselves, they don’t need any other plants. They have a male and female parts on their flowers. Cross pollenated means you need another plant to pollenate. This can be an issue with two of the same species close by, say squash. Because they can cross breed using the pollen from like plants. Keep these kinds of plants isolated from other species.

Hybrid seeds and plants are a little more complicated. It’s where you cross mate cross pollenated species. You can end up with a more drought tolerant plant or some other unique feature but these types are hard to keep in a gene pool. Meaning the next batch may not come out the same. These types of seeds aren’t worth saving.

Heirloom’s are plants that have been “true to type” for decades. Nothing has changed. So you can have an open-pollenated heirloom. But as long as it stays true to type, you can call it a heirloom.

I think I’ve got these all straight.

Tips on seed saving:

  1. Only save seeds from high quality vegetables
  2. Make sure your seeds are washed and have completely dried before packing
  3. Don’t put them in plastic. If there is any moisture left, they will mold and become useless.
  4. store them in paper envelopes.
  5. Store them in an air tight container in the cool and dark. You can even freeze them.

Any other tips?

This article on seed saving goes into much more detail

One Comment

  • Bushywebb on Oct 17, 2012

    One good tip for saving the seeds you want is to attach tape or ribbon to the stalk of the seedhead you want to harvest. Once the seed head has ripened and the seed dry, they all look pretty much the same but with the ribbon attached you know which seeds you wanted. This technique is great for flowering plants where you want to grow blooms of a particular colour, but equally useful for harvesting from ” best” onion or leek.

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