Thursday, September 20, 2007

Seed saving

Have you ever wondered how Walmart is able to sell seeds for $0.30 or even $0.10 a package? The answer is quite simple: because vegetables, like every other living thing on this planet (except for certain groups of humans), want to fill the world with as many of their offspring as the world can hold. This means seed saving is easy and cheap!

I have a small patio garden with peas, beans, peppers, and basil, and with a few tomato plants and marigolds in the ground. That's pretty much it. And, as you can see from the pictures below, we have saved more seeds this year than we will be able to use next year. The inconvenience was minimal, and the result is that we will not have to purchase seeds for next year's garden.

You, too, can save seeds for your own use. Here's a quick how-to guide for some seeds we saved this season:

  • Beans, peas, pole beans - Leave a few pods on the plant until the pods turn dry. The seeds might need a few extra days indoors to dry. Be sure to choose healthy plants that exhibit the traits you want to pass on to the next generation.
  • Peppers - Let the peppers fully mature on the plant. When you are cutting up the pepper to eat, remove the seeds and let them dry. Only choose healthy-looking seeds from healthy peppers.
  • Basil, marigolds, etc - When the flowers have dried up, remove the seeds from the flowers. There will be an abundant harvest. :)
  • Watermelon - Put seeds into a large bowl filled with water and a drop of dish soap. Discard any seeds that float. Dry completely on a paper towel.
  • Tomatoes - Scoop the seeds with their 'goo' into a small container. Add a tablespoon or so of water, cover the container with plastic wrap, and poke a hole or two into the plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place, stirring every day or so. After about three days, strain out the seeds from the now-fermented (eew!) mess. Or, rather, have your husband do it. :) Let the seeds dry completely on a paper towel.
One important thing to note. Some plants don't cross-pollinate very easily. Most of the ones I'm growing fit into that category. But you should always be careful with planting more than one variety of the same plant. Try to put them on opposite sides of the garden if you can.

Next year I intend to branch out into saving lettuce, spinach, carrot, squash, and garlic. I store the seeds in labled 2x3 plastic bags, and I put the bags in a storage container with silica gel and dried milk pouches. All this goes in a cool place for use next year.

Difficult? Not at all. Inconvenient? Not in the least. Frugal? You bet!

I do have some extra seeds from the summer harvest that I am willing to trade. If you have seeds you'd like to send me (whether you saved them yourself or not -- they could just be extra seeds you're not going to use anymore), drop me an email and we'll have an old-fashioned seed exchange. :) If you don't have anything to trade, you can send me a self-addressed stamped envelope -- but if you've read what I wrote above, you'll know that's *way* too much to pay for seeds! Still, if you are determined, I will accommodate. Except in the case of the peppers, I'm planning on giving each trader 25 seeds of their chosen variety. If you do not think that is a fair trade, just let me know and we'll work something out.

These are sweet basil seeds, and there are a few hundred more seeds in the backyard right now, waiting to be harvested. There's nothing extremely exciting about these in particular, but who doesn't like fresh basil?? :)

French Marigolds, which some say drive away pests. The picture here is of the yield from 3 dried flower buds. There are about 15 more flower buds in the garden, so there is plenty for the taking! I do not know if French Marigolds really do prevent pests, but I will say that the bugs in our big box left after the marigolds were established. Possibly a coincidence, but we're still going to be planting them next year!

Chinese Giant peppers were the biggest disappointment so far as seed saving this year. All the seeds turned black or brown except for these seven. The peppers did grow quite big for container-grown peppers, but they weren't quite what we were looking for in a sustainable garden. Especially not since bell peppers are JunkMale's favorite vegetable. We will be going with a different variety next year, and so all these seeds are available to anyone who can give them a good home. :)

My mother neglected her butter beans (baby lima beans to the 'uncultured') for two weeks this season, and wound up with more seeds than she knew what to do with. She gave them to me, but the truth is that I already have more seeds than I know what to do with. Butter beans are great. If you harvest them before the beans start turning white, they are never mealy. The bushes will continue to produce until the first frost. Yum!

These are our tomato seeds, Super Marmande variety, which are fusarium and verticulum wilt resistant. The fruit are not very large, but they are tasty. The fruit never gets deep red, even when the fruit is completely ripe. This is an improvement over an old French standard variety, but still quite open-pollinated. There is a slight probability of finding a seed that crossed with an Early Girl plant that we had in our garden as well, but since tomatoes generally are self-pollinating, I'm fairly confident they'll be fine.

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4 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Ewokgirl

    *sigh* I'm so envious and impressed by people who can GROW things. Not only that, but save seeds and such. I have a black thumb; I inherited it from my mother. And the one time I managed to actually get herbs to grow in a planter in my kitchen, my cat turned them into his second litterbox. :-(

    I do hope you'll post more pictures of your garden. Even though I'm hopeless at growing things, I enjoy seeing what others have managed to keep alive. :-)

  • Ron and Ginny

    Good job! I love to save seeds, but I don't usually do the hard ones... ;-)

  • VeiledGlory

    Hmmmm.....is that tomato variety an heirloom (non-hybrid)? If not, you may not get what you expected next year.


  • Harmony


    The place I bought it from said it was open-pollinated. It's not an heirloom variety (that is, it's not that old), but from what I could tell it wasn't a hybrid.

    We did buy two different varieties of tomato seeds for next year that are heirlooms. So, if these don't pan out next year, we should still be set. :)