The world of modern homesteading is growing so much, and while there are a million different reasons that we’re all getting into this game, I think a common thread is self-sufficiency! At the point of starting plants from seed and growing your own food, it’s hard to imagine how you could possibly become more self sufficient.. But there’s a way!
We can close the loop on the entire cycle if we save our own seeds and it’s incredibly easy. Getting started can be confusing, but with a little basic information you can figure out how to save seeds from any plant!
The first seeds I ever saved were Calendula. I would argue that they are some of the absolute easiest to save for future growing. Calendula seeds don’t require you to do anything other than collect and allow them to dry out entirely before putting them in storage.
For anyone just looking to dip their toe into the world of saving seeds, I would highly recommend Calendula. The flowers are beautiful in your landscape, and can be used to make infused oils that have many benefits for your skin, and the seeds are plentiful!
For seed like beans and peas, the pods should be allowed to stay on the vine past the point of maturity when they begin to “die” and dry out. The only challenge is making sure they don’t rest on the ground for too long or get eaten by pests.
I’ve found that pea or bean pods that are even just barely touching the ground will absorb moisture from the soil and begin to mold. Once they have dried completely, (usually you can hear them rattle inside of the pod) you can pick them, break open the pods, and save the seeds!
Seeds for plants like tomatoes, on the other hand, have a gel coating that has to be removed before saving away for next year. This can be done through a 5-7 day process of fermenting the seeds in water. It’s as simple as scooping out the gel and seeds with your thumb and depositing them into a jar. Add roughly an equal amount of water as you have gel in your jar and cover it with a lid. (Don’t forget to label your jar with the variety you are fermenting!) Each day, you should give your jar a gentle shake to help break up that gel coating. After 5-7 days you should notice your seeds resting on the bottom of the jar with the gel coating no longer attached. At this point, you can open the jar (warning: there will be a smell!) if you notice a lot of floating seeds, I would recommend using a spoon to remove and discard those first! Those are not viable seeds. The remaining seeds can be dumped into your fine strainer and rinsed.
Pick out any bits of tomato that may be left and transfer the seeds onto a coffee filter to dry for a couple of days. Once the seeds are completely dry, they are ready to store!
Most root vegetables like radishes and carrots, when left in the ground long enough, will form a large stalk. In warmer weather this typically happens more quickly and is referred to as “bolting”. In radishes that stalk will put out a number of different flowers. Pollinated flowers produce pods that contain roughly 3-7 seeds. Again, these should be allowed to dry on the plant. I typically allow the plants closest to my fence “trellis” go to seed and leave the plant alone to die and dry out. They tend to branch out quite a bit, so I usually wind the live branches through the fence gaps for support, and tie the branches together once they have finished flowering and begin to die, so I can use the space to trellis other plants later in the season. Unlike radishes, when carrots go to flower, they do not produce pods. The flower dries out and the seeds are hidden within the dried blooms. Again, when they are dry, you can cut back the stems of these flowers and remove the seeds by shaking the dried flowers or pinching them to release the seeds.
When we save seeds, we have the opportunity to preserve and share the stories and traditions that these seeds have carried through history.
Written by Jenna
The Quality Of
Plants & Seeds
In all cases, it is important to watch the quality of the plants you are saving seeds from. The rule of thumb is to save seeds from the healthiest and highest quality plant in order to pass on those genes. There are also a number of diseases that are transferred through the seed to later plants.
While some plants are self-pollinating, meaning they don’t require pollen to be exchanged from one flower to another, many require this transaction through wind, insects, and sometimes human hands in order to produce seeds. If you have plans to save seeds, it is important to consider the number of varieties of that particular type of plant you are growing and the amount of space you have between each variety. Since we have no control over the wind, the birds, or the bees, it is important to make sure different varieties are spaced out enough to avoid cross-pollination. While cross pollination won’t hurt you, it does mean that the plants grown from cross-pollinated seeds won’t grow the same plant that they came from. Saving seeds from a cross, or open pollinated hybrid, also won’t result in future plants being the same as the hybrid that they came from.
I encourage you to experiment with plants of all types! In this world where genetically modified monocultures rule in factory farming, the saving and exchanging of seeds is what keeps our heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers alive. We also maintain biodiversity that is invaluable to the health of our bodies and the planet.
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