Seed Saving 101

October 2018 article for Pigeon Magazine

As the growing season comes to its close plants are working to ensure their future – they are fattening up seeds. So before you hit the seed catalogues it is worth looking round to see what you can get for free.

 

Successful seed saving can be as simple as collecting ripe, dry seed, and storing it somewhere cool and dry in labelled envelopes. But be aware that some plants, including many vegetables, need to be have their pollination controlled to breed true to type.

 

Start with some easy ones like grasses, wildflowers, sweet peas, french beans, lettuce and tomatoes, which are all sure to give you predictable results. You can work your way up to more complicated plants as you get more experienced.

A few starting points:

  • Do watch for when seeds are ripe; immature seeds won’t germinate, but leave them too long and the plants will have scattered them

  • Avoid hybrids, (F1), plants as the seedlings will not be like the parent plant

  • Collect from your best plants, you want the next generation to inherit good qualities

  • The closer to its natural origins a plant is, the more likely it is to breed true

  • Some seeds like tomatoes and berries will need to be processed to remove the material around them, there are lots of helpful Youtube videos to show you how this is done

  • Experiment: you may get wonderful new variations

Questions you need to ask about saving seed; from Real Seeds site

​​CROSSING

  • Will these plants cross with any others?

  • Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? (Usually bad)

  • How does this happen? (Wind? Insects?)

  • What can I do to control this? Do I need to do anything?

POPULATION

  • Do I need a minimum number to get healthy seed? (e.g. do they breed as group?)

  • Or do the plants live on their own and self-pollinate? (so I can save seed from just a few?)

  • Have I chosen the best plants for seed?

SEED EXTRACTION AND DRYING

  • Do I need to do anything special to the seed ?

  • Is my seed well dried and well labelled?

The answers are different for each vegetable.