Now that the growing season has officially begun and we are in full swing of gardening season, we all watch hopeful and excited as the peas, rhubarb, strawberries, and asparagus finish their last rounds of harvesting. And summer’s incredible bounty begin to grow in the spring rain, warming sun, and rising temperatures. Next year seems so far away, but how exciting and interesting would it be to be able to prepare your garden for next year, by saving this years seeds to be planted right back in for next spring and summer? Not only will it save you money on seed purchases but also “by selecting seeds from just the healthiest plants, you will overtime select for and create a special sub-variety of crops that will especially adapt to your backyard’s climate and soil.” http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening? Sounds like a lot of work huh? Not necessarily…
A Few Things to Remember:
- Don’t waste your time on hybrid varieties. They will be labeled on the seed packet as hybrid or F1 hybrid.
- Stick with true, pure breeds.
- Cross pollination can happen by insects and the wind-leaving you with uncertain result of your plant variety.
- Beans and peas self-pollinate and are the easiest to save and store.
- Keep your garden as far away from your neighbor’s to avoid cross-pollination (as much as possible)
- Remember root crops, parsley, cabbages, and Brussel sprouts are biennial-meaning they don’t form seed pods until their second year. And most of these varieties aren’t cold tolerant so they won’t survive the winter. Best to buy these seeds every year!
Collecting the Seeds:
- Tomatoes, squash, and melons should be picked when their ripe. Scoop out the seeds and spread them to dry in a well ventilated area.
- Beans and peas should be left on the vine until the pods begin to crack and break open.
- Other seeds should be fully formed and hard.
- Always collect from multiple healthy plants, not just one or two.
- Label and store seeds as soon as possible after harvesting.
- Envelopes work well for containers for small quantities of seeds.
- Glass jar are great for large quantities.
- Best way to label each seed-vegetable, the variety, when it was bought, month and year of harvest.
- Store in a cool, dry place. Avoid moist areas it will cause your seeds to sprout and mildew.
- Potatoes, onions, and garlic can be stored in open boxes- root cellars are the best for storing.
Longevity of Plants in Years: (info from www.motherearthnews.com)
Asparagus 4, Beans, string 2, Broccoli 3, Cabbage 3, Carrots 4, Cucumber 5, Lettuce 5, Onions 2, Peas 2, Pumpkin 6, Radish 3, Spinach 5, Squash 4, Tomatoes 3, and Turnips 3. But some can last up to 10 years if properly stored.
Test Your Germination:
- Place seeds on top of damp cotton or newspaper- I’ve used paper towels before!
- Place in a covered dish or plastic bags also work.
- Leave at room temperature for 3 days up to a week
- Count how many seeds have germinated to see if most of your seeds are viable.
Seems simple enough, right? Pretty cool to try out and see how your seeds survive the winter. Testing you seeds for germination can also give you a jump-start on your seedlings or for planting them directly in the ground. I use this method every year and give my seeds a little head start. And since I don’t have a root cellar. (I do have a pseudo way to make one though, I’ll save that for a future post one day!) But I will say I have placed seeds in separate envelopes, put them in a small plastic accordion file and stored the file on the top shelf of my refrigerator and all my seeds have come back year after year! Comment or message me and let me know your successes or frustrations in the months to come. Good Luck and Happy Gardening!