How To Save Seeds From Your Garden

How To Save Seeds From Your Garden

After flowering, all plants produce seed. This is one way in which plants reproduce. Seed comes in many different types, shapes and sizes. Seeds are also spread in many ways.

Seeds in pods – when ripe, the pods such as those on Broom can explode and split open and the seeds shoot out.

Hooked seeds – tiny hooks on the seeds of plants such as stick to people’s clothes and animal fur.

Fruit – some seeds like blackberries have a juicy covering. Birds and other animals eat the fruit and when seeds pass through the animals, they are deposited on the ground where they can start growing.

Winged seeds – these seeds, for example ash and sycamore have wings. Wind catches the wings and blows the seeds far and wide.

Seeds on parachutes – these are very light seeds with their own parachute to keep them in the air. Dandelion seeds and seeds of straw flower Helichrysun) are examples of this.

By one method or another seeds get everywhere, which is why we often see plants growing in cracks in walls and in other out-of-the-way places, where no one would have planted them.

It is easy to collect and save seeds when they are ripe. You can store them over winter and sow them the following spring. In this way you’ll get a wide variety of free plants. If you swap seeds with friends and family you’ll get an even greater range.

Long Term Seed Storage
Saving the seed

  1. Look for ripe seeds. After flowerfall the seeds usually found at the base of the flower are likely to be green. The time to harvest the seed is when they turn brown.
  2. Cut off the seed heads and put them into paper bags so they can finish drying.
  3. Label each bag clearly with the plant name.
  4. Leave the bags open so any moisture still present can evaporate.
  5. Put the open bags in a warm dry place—an airing cupboard is ideal – until the seed pods are completely dry. You may need to split the pods and shake them to get all the seed out.
  6. Blow all the casings away to clean the seeds.
  7. Put each batch of seed in a paper envelope and label clearly. Don’t use plastic or foil for wrapping.
  8. Store over winter in an airtight container, such as an old clean coffee jar or mason jar
  9. Early next spring find out when your seeds should be sown. You will find this information in gardening books.
  10. Before sowing let the seeds rest for a few days , open to the air, to absorb some natural moisture.

The Key To Successful Seed Storage

The key to successful long-term seed storage is keeping your cache cool and dry. If you store your seeds where the air is moist, they may sprout and/or become mildewed (Tip: You may want to put a small amount of powdered milk into each storage container to act as a desiccant). Mold growth occurs at a faster rate in warm air than it does in cool air.

Potato and onion sets may be stored in open boxes or hung in mesh bags in a place where the temperature is 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air is not overly dry. We store ours in a frost-free fruit cellar along with our canned goods and winter squash.

Seed Longevity - How Long Will Seeds Keep Stored?
Seed Longevity: How Long Will Your Seeds Keep?

Some seeds keep much longer than others. The following chart will give you an idea as to the minimum length of time properly stored seeds will remain viable.

TYPE OF SEED                                                                                             USEFUL LIFE (YEARS)

Asparagus 4
Beans, string 2
Broccoli 3
Cabbage 3
Carrots 4
Cucumber 5
Lettuce 5
Onion 2
Pea 2
Pumpkin 6
Radish 3
Spinach 5
Squash 4
Tomato 3
Turnip 3

Seed Longevity does fluctuate. Some of the above seeds may — depending on the particular variety and the storage conditions — remain usable for up to 10 years.

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