Saving Seeds: 7 Reasons Why and Dozens of Tips for How

Saving seeds can help gardeners save money, grow better crops and become more self-reliant. Learn all about saving vegetable seeds.

| December 2012/January 2013

  • The Value of Saving Seeds
    Gardeners save seeds for many reasons, including money savings, seed security and consistent quality.
    Photo By Dwight Kuhn
  • Eggplant Saving Seeds
    Grow eggplant for seed saving under tulle netting to exclude insects, including pollinators. Remove the netting to fertilize blossoms by hand, replacing the barrier when you’re done. 
    Photos By Barbara Pleasant
  • Squash Seeds Saving
    Save seed from squash by scraping seeds and meat out of the fruit and rinsing the seeds well in a colander before laying them out on newspaper to dry.
    Photo By Superstock/Flowerphotos
  • Open Pollinated Corn
    Save seed from open-pollinated corn by setting aside some dry kernels in a cool place for next year’s crop. 
    Photo By Rick Wetherbee
  • Hand Pollinating Corn
    Workers at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, hand-pollinate corn in the field.  
    Photo Courtesy Seed Savers Exchange
  • Using Screens to Save Seeds
    Using screens as filters (as demonstrated by author Roberta Bailey) is a method of removing chaff from seed. 
    Photo By Rob Lemire
  • Dried Cucumber Seeds
    An impressive collection of cucumber seeds dries spread out on screens. 
    Photo By Rob Lemire
  • Seed Heads
    Because of their size, certain crops, such as these, will need extra space in your garden to grow, flower and create seed. Clockwise from top left: seeding lettuce, beets, rutabaga and lacinato kale. 
    (Clockwise from Top Left) Photo By Flickr/Graibeard; Barbara Pleasant; Seed Savers Exchange; Flickr/Joerobb
  • Rubbing Seed Pods
    Rubbing seed pods back and forth between your hands is a method of removing chaff from seed. 
    Photo By Ottmar Bierwagen
  • Seed Saving in Glass Containers
    Glass containers kept in a cool, dry place are your best choice for storing seeds.
    Photo By Barbara Judge

  • The Value of Saving Seeds
  • Eggplant Saving Seeds
  • Squash Seeds Saving
  • Open Pollinated Corn
  • Hand Pollinating Corn
  • Using Screens to Save Seeds
  • Dried Cucumber Seeds
  • Seed Heads
  • Rubbing Seed Pods
  • Seed Saving in Glass Containers

When you save your own seeds, you are joining a chain of farmers, gardeners and seed savers that dates back to the Stone Age. All domestic crops were once wild plants that early humans selected to feed themselves or, later, their livestock. Today, gardeners save seeds for many reasons.

1. Money Savings. Every time you buy a seed variety, you invest in your future. For example, I just bought some expensive ‘Midori Giant’ soybean seed, and I feel better about the high price tag because I know I’ll have the variety as long as I continue saving seeds from my plants. (With soybeans, you simply let the last picking dry on the plant and you have next year’s seed.)

2. Seed Security. Hundreds of excellent plant varieties have been discontinued as big corporations have consolidated the seed industry and focused on more profitable hybrids. If you save your own seed, however, you control the supply. I save seed for ‘Miragreen’ and ‘Blizzard’ peas, ‘Lutz Green Leaf’ beets, and ‘Scarlet Keeper’ carrots because these varieties all grow well here in Maine but have become difficult to find in seed catalogs.

3. Regional Adaptation. This is where saving vegetable seeds can get exciting. Most commercially available seed has been selected because it performs fairly well across the entire country if given synthetic fertilizers. (Several companies now offer seeds selected specifically to perform well in organic conditions — but this isn’t the norm.) When you save seed from the best-performing plants grown on your own land and with your unique cultural conditions, you gradually develop varieties that are better adapted to your soil, climate and growing practices.



4. Consistent Quality. To keep their prices competitive when producing open-pollinated (OP) seed crops, large seed suppliers rarely “rogue” the fields to pull out inferior or off-type plants. This means the OP seed they sell to retail seed companies may have a lot of off-types in it. For gardeners and market farmers, that translates to loss of production per foot of row. To avoid this loss, either save your own seed, or pay more for premium seed produced by small, organic producers whose seeds cost more because they properly select for uniformity and rogue out any plants that aren’t true to type. (See our Seed Company Directory for profiles of more than 100 seed companies, some of which do their own variety trials and follow careful selection practices.)

5. The Joy of Learning. Some people are drawn to the science of seed saving because they want to take their gardening experience to a higher level. The more seeds you save, the more you inevitably learn about botany and the plant kingdom.

SUSANL
12/6/2015 7:56:19 AM

I saved some of my Wren's Egg beans last year, and must not have dried them completely, since they grew mold in their air-tight storage container. Is there a way to tell if beans are completely dry?


DebbieMc
10/25/2015 7:03:55 AM

I have always thought that you can't use hybrid seeds to grow again? I was taught you have to go back to the basic/heirloom seeds to do this, now I'm confused.


Daisy
1/2/2015 2:21:15 PM

It might be more helpful to have an article on HOW to save seeds, especially tomato seeds and any others that require a technique. The jelly in the tomato that holds the seed, when soaked into the seed coat, forms a protective substance for the seed.







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