Save Vegetable Seeds in Your Backyard

Follow these seed saving techniques to save seed from your vegetable garden. Learn how to collect, label and store seeds, perform germination testing and understand seed longevity.

| September/October 1977

Save vegetable seeds and you save money on gardening, become more food self-sufficient, create new, custom varieties of vegetables that grow best in your backyard and have fun in the process! 

One gardening encyclopedia tells its readers not to save seeds since they're so plentiful and inexpensive it's not worth the bother. Oh yeah? Take a careful look at this year’s colorful new seed catalogs, and then tell me seeds aren't expensive. Until recently, my yearly order cost was between $20 and $25, and I suspect my case is not unusual.

It's not necessary to spend $10 or $15 (or even $30) each year on seeds. I've found, by saving vegetable seeds from my own garden and then planting them the following year, I've cut my annual seed bill in half (despite the fact that the few seeds I do buy have risen sharply in price, and despite the fact that I like to experiment with exotic and generally expensive plant varieties). If you have a large garden — and if you can discipline yourself to resist those glowing seed catalog pictures and descriptions — you could easily save on your seed bill, too.

This year, plan to collect, store and use some of the seed your own garden gives you for free? It isn't hard to do, and the rewards (if you ask me) more than justify the small amount of effort involved.

First, a Few Seed Saving Basics

Before the actual "here's how" of preserving seeds, I'd like to offer a few observations that could save you a good deal of frustration or disappointment.

First of all, hybrid varieties (you'll see the word "hybrid" in the seed catalog description or in the vegetable's name) do not always breed true to type. The seed from last season's mammoth tomatoes may only produce scraggly plants bearing tiny red buttons the following season. To avoid this problem, always start with standard (non-hybrid) vegetable varieties, or stick with hybrids that you know will breed true.

Cheryl Mohat
8/21/2011 11:04:08 PM

I could not fid the chart on "How long the seeds will keep"...where do I find that? Cheryl

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