As I write it is April 2020 and it seems most of the world has gone to ground in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
And by going to ground, I don’t just mean social isolation!
Suddenly it seemed that everyone was buying seeds and planning to grow their own food. And while the circumstances behind this panic-buying couldn’t be much worse, the idea that more people are deciding to grow more of their own food is encouraging!
So if you have discovered that seeds are hard to source and buy right now, there is another way!
Save your own seeds!
Because, pandemic or no pandemic, saving, growing and using your own seeds is a great idea. Plus, it doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming or complicated.
Saving your own seeds is economical and over time, you will collect a robust selection of reliable seeds, acclimatised to your unique environment.
With a few guidelines, you could be sowing the seeds to your garden success in no time. In fact, you will likely collect more than you could possibly use in your own garden with a tiny amount of effort. More to share!
Choose Heirloom Open Pollinated Varieties
The produce you purchase at the supermarket may not be suitable for seed saving.
Many commercial varieties are hybrids. Hybrid varieties produce seeds, but the plant you grow from them may not resemble the plant or fruit you sourced them from.
However, with Heirloom varieties (when grown with certain cross-breeding precautions, which is a topic for another post!) you can be sure that the seed from the fruit or vegetable will grow the same plant and produce. But, when in doubt, it never hurts to try!
So how can you tell the difference between a hybrid tomato and an heirloom one?
The short answer is, you can’t. Or at least, it can be difficult, which is why this is a perfect time to get to know your fruit and vegetable varieties! For example, Tigerella tomatoes, with their unmistakable green stripes are an heirloom variety.
So, this brings me to my next recommendation…
Save Your Own Seeds from Local Organic Produce.
Farmers markets are one of the best sources of local, heirloom produce that I have found! Usually, the market stall owner is more than willing to share the variety name and details with you. Locally grown produce means that it was grown in climate conditions similar to what you have at home, meaning the seed will likely flourish
Choose fragrant, ripe specimens that you would love to pluck from your own garden! Choose tomatoes, tomatillos, melons, pumpkins, spaghetti squash, cape gooseberries and eggplants are all suitable for seed collecting, fresh from the market.
Save Your Own Seeds from Your (or friends!) Garden
Vegetables like cucumbers, zucchinis and squashes need to grow to an unpalatable size before their seeds are suitable to collect, which is manageable for the home gardener, but not something you are going to find at the market.
Choose great looking ripe specimens from your heirloom seeded veggie patch and tie a coloured ribbon or string around the specimen that you want to save seeds from. Warn any garden visitors that the tagged fruit or veggies are not for picking! Let them balloon into large, overripe specimens checking every day to ensure that the fruit has not split or become infested with insects.
Then pick the seed stock and process the seeds as below….
Saving “Wet” Seeds
Wet seeds are from squishy fruit like tomatoes, melons, pumpkins, and squash. Scoop the pulpy seeds into a jar of water. Give the jar a little swish every day. After a few days, most of the seeds will come free from the pulp and sink to the bottom of the glass.
Pour the soaking water away, discard any floating seeds and rinse the seeds through a sieve with fresh water. Allow the seeds to dry on a clean tea towel. Now they are ready to be labelled, stashed and stowed!
Saving “Dry” Seeds
Dry seeds are relatively easy to harvest. Simply scrape or shake the seeds from the fruit or pods and they are ready to go! Chillis and capsicums can be sourced from the farmers market, ready to have their seeds collected. Leave sunflower seeds, beans, corn, peas, okra and loofas to dry completely on the parent plant.
Leave vegetables to bolt at the end of their harvest so you can save seed for the following year. Brassicas, alliums, artichokes, asparagus, carrots, beetroot, lettuces, and flowering herbs will go to seed at the end of their growing season. Such seeds are easily winnowed from their husks when they are completely dry.
Storing Your Seeds
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen, Norway built into the permafrost to preserve the freshness of the seed stock. Home stored seeds are best stored in a dark, cool, dry place. I like to use a sealed bag or wrap them in foil to ensure no pests or spores can get in and spoil the seeds.
You may think you will be able to remember the exact variety and date of the seeds you stash, but I can tell you (from repeated personal experience!) that you best label your seeds the minute you process them!
Luckily, I have a great template in the Resource Library that you can print off and use! if you are not already a subscriber to A Farm of Your Home, sign up now for exclusive access to all the goodies in our Resource Library.
How long will my saved seeds last?
As a general rule, use your seeds within a year or two of collection. But, seeds can remain viable for many years when stored correctly. With each passing year, your seed germination rates may decrease. It is always a good idea to save more than you think you will need to compensate. Plus, that leaves plenty of seeds to share!
Do you save your own seeds or do you buy them fresh from year to year? If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below.