Be more food self-sufficient and save your seeds! It’s a simple process of keeping seeds from open-pollinated vegetables, grain, herbs and flowers from your garden for use from year to year. This is the traditional way farms and gardens were maintained. Explaining the collection and saving process for every plant variety is beyond the scope of this website, so we will focus on the idea and general process of seed saving. Visit www.SeedSavers.org for more detailed instructions for specific seeds.
Why you must save your seeds.
In recent decades, there has been a major shift to buy seed annually from commercial seed suppliers. As a result, two firms, Monsanto and DuPont, now control the U.S. seed business. Monsanto specializes in genetically modified seeds (GMO’s) — seeds having particular properties that Monsanto has patented. To use these patented seeds, farmers must buy new seeds from Monsanto every year. A survey done by Rural Advancement Foundation International found that about 93 percent of the varieties had gone extinct.
Much of the grassroots seed-saving activity today is the work of home gardeners. However, it is gaining popularity among organic farmers, permaculturists and enthusiasts with cultural or environmentalist interests. This saves cash and makes you less dependent on anyone else for food. You also know exactly what you’re growing.
How to save your seeds?
Pick the right plant!
Environmental factors such as season length, rainfall, frost, nutrients, pests, diseases or genetic mutations effect which plants are most ‘successful’. Also, you only want to gather seeds from open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, not hybrids.
By choosing plants with particular characteristics to develop seeds from, you increase the likelihood of next years crop being similar. Don’t just go for the biggest plant or seed without first evaluating other factors such as the taste, color, cold, drought, pest & disease resistance, crop yield (do you want 2 big fruit or 10 smaller ones?), harvest season (all at once or spread out, early or late harvest?), storage qualities, vigour, hardiness, trueness to type and even the quality of the soil around that particular plant. Don’t pick diseased plants if you can help it.
Keeping good records of your seed saving activities is essential. As well as a marker in the ground, each variety should have a file recording seed details such as the name, source, last planting date and last germination rate. Notes on the plants themselves can include germination and planting times, time to maturity, fruiting season and productivity, the size, shape, color and flavor of fruits and any notes on soil, pests, diseases or other growing conditions. Keep a record of the weather, especially unusual events, as it may significantly effect the outcome of plants grown from year to year .
Here at the GreenDesert.org we stick with heirloom seeds from the start. Saving the seeds of things like cucumber, cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew is quite simple. The seeds are there for your taking. Simply clean the seeds, let them dry out and save them in an envelope in a very dry, cool place. The garage in the summer time obviously would not be an ideal place to store your seeds.
Plants like lettuce and carrots are alittle more difficult since the seeds aren’t in or on the vegetable, but very feasible to save the seeds.
For these types of vegetables, you have to let the plants flower and dry out in order to get the seeds. You don’t need to let all of your plants flower; we usually only leave 2 or 3 plants to flower and we get more than enough seeds for the next season.
Once the flower is dried out and brown, cut the plants at the stem, take it inside, rub the flowers between your hands or shake them into your envelope and you’re ready to store.
Did You Know?
93 percent of the varieties had gone extinct since 1903
Gather seeds only from the healthiest plants, not a tiny or discolored one.
Pick seeds from plants that produce the flavor and color you are trying to preserve.
Choose mature, ripe fruits for seed harvesting. An unripe fruit may have immature seeds, which aren’t going to be as viable.