Mother Earth News Blogs > Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


Seed Saving: Fun, Easy and a Cost Saver

 

Seed saving has been going on for thousands of years. Seed saving is easy. Always save the seed from the best vegetable you grew! Or the tastiest you buy at the farmers market or store.  

Pick the fruit or plant that has the characteristics you want to grow next year. The one that was the biggest or had the best taste or produced the most or produced the longest or gave you harvests the earliest or was the most drought or pest resistant or the one that was most pest resistant. You chose what characteristics you want in the veggies you plant in next year’s garden.

One caveat: You cannot get true to parent plants from hybrids. If they grow, they will often be totally different than the parent or could get weaker with each generation. You need “open pollinated” or heirloom vegetables for the seed to produce a baby like the parent.

Peppers. I love these small sweet peppers I get from the grocery store so I saved the seeds over the winter and planted out a couple of each color. I only had one plant that came up true to the parent. This is the one I am saving seed from this year.

There was also another pepper plant that produced prolifically small bell peppers. I am also going to save the seed from this plant because it produced so much that I want to grow them again next year. It doesn't cost a thing to save seeds from store bought veggies or fruits you like and you can end up with some great plants for your garden!

Garlic. For garlic, you save the best, biggest cloves. You divide up the garlic head into individual cloves and plant them in the fall when it cools off-typically, end of September or beginning of October. Most store garlic has been treated to prevent them from sprouting so you may or may not have luck using the ones from the grocery store.  Your farmers market is a great place to get garlic well suited for your area.

In our garden, seeds can be saved now from tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, cilantro, dill, celery, borage, salad burnet, garlic, Egyptian walking onions (bulblets), basil. For peppers, squash and tomatoes, just scoop out the seeds, lay them on a paper towel on a plate and let them dry. Some suggest for tomato seed to put them in water and let them ferment a bit. The ones that sink are the ones you want to keep for planting, not the ones that float.

Greens. Many greens, like chard, parsley, lettuce, broccoli, will shoot a large stalk up then flower. This is called "bolting." The easiest thing to do is to let the seeds form, cut the stalk, then put the stalks with seed heads attached into a paper bag.  Let them dry thoroughly, then shake the seeds out. Some may require that you roll the seed heads between your fingers to free the seed.

You can actually re-sow seeds from cool season crops like lettuce, cilantro, parsley, chard, chives and get a second fall/winter harvest! I put my dried seeds in labeled ziplock bags and store them in the crisper. The seeds last for years this way!

For more tips on organic and heirloom gardening in small spaces and containers, see Melodie’s blog at Victory Garden on the Golf Course.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.