Seed Saving: Useful Tips for this Growing Season

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Art DavidsonWhen my husband and I are in the heat of the growing season, we often find ourselves scrambling to keep up with the demands of plant maintenance and harvest of dozens of crops.  Regrettably, we must put other important aspects of growing on the back burner, such as seed saving. We actually love saving our own seeds but often times don't think about it until its crunch time, when we are hard pressed to find a few moments to spare. Fortunately, we feel a little more prepared since having attended a Seed Saving Workshop hosted by the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension St. Louis. We feel more prepared with receiving this knowledge at the beginning of our growing season this year.

 The Seed Saving Workshop was presented by Art Davidson, a knowledgeable and outgoing representative of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  He started his lecture with a simple question, " Why heirloom?” He followed that question with a simple yet powerful answer, "Seeds are something worth saving, worth protecting" He mentioned numerous times throughout the talk, "you can't eat gold". This really struck a chord with me.  Ultimately, food, water, shelter and love are our most valuable resources and should be treated as gold. Art talked a lot about the variables involved in seed saving: He mentioned that isolation chambers are necessary for preserving heritage in many plants and gave step by step instructions on how to build your own affordable isolation chambers using wooden frames and or PVC pipes and floating row covers weighted down with sand bags.  He mentioned that it takes 6-20 plants as well as a swarm of bumble bees or mason bees in order to ensure good pollination.

He presented several creative ways to save seed, whether you are just saving seeds for your own backyard garden or putting up seeds for the future.

Here is a video on saving seeds via the fermentation process.

Additionally, there is an excellent how-to article in the Baker Creek Catalog online.

Arts recommendations on seed saving:

• Dry seeds on a paper plate for home seed saving and label clearly.

When saving seeds on a larger scale, use a screen with various sized mesh for various sized seeds.  Use a catching device such as a bin for seeds to fall into. Simply brush the seeds in a waving motion

• The mesh needs to be rough enough to get the seed chaff off.

• For rinsing and drying, use a wooden frame with a nylon screen.

He talked about the importance of knowing the ideal environments for storing seeds.  Seeds saved at home store the longest when kept in Mylar packets inside of a glass jar in the freezer.  They also store well in a cool dry place stored at 50 degrees or cooler. He mentioned that seed banks store their seeds at 28 degrees or below in glass jars or viles in rooms with dim light and dry air.

Seed Saving at Home

We have been saving our own seeds at home for years using the paper bag method! You don't need fancy equipment to save your own seeds, just some time, patience, a few brown paper bags or coffee filters, and a marker.  We like to include a brief description of the veggie or fruit from which we collected the seed. Because of the scale of our operation, we are unable at this time to use isolation chambers. Additionally, our labels often disappear.  Even still, you can take your best and most beautiful veggies and save their seed.  They may not turn out true to their parent plant, but you will save on seeds the following year and who knows, you could even produce a beautiful new variety that you can name after your kids.

For heirloom seeds true to their heritage, we always go thru Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  As a perk, they have one of the most beautiful seed catalogs we have ever laid eyes on! Each year, we wrap our holiday gifts using the beautiful pages of last year’s seed catalog.

View the complete article on Seed Saving with Art Davidson at Grow Create Inspire.