Summer is an exciting time in the garden. Those tiny seeds you planted earlier in the year are growing and starting to produce. All your hard work is finally paying off. At this point in the growing season, you’ve probably noticed some plant varieties that are growing particularly well in your garden.
If so, you may be wondering how you can make sure you have the same success next year. Saving seeds enables you to have identical plants time after time. Essentially, it allows you to reproduce the best plants growing in your garden.
While you can plan and research all you want to get the best plants for your particular area, you don’t know if a specific varietal will do well in your area until you plant it. If it thrives, you’ll want to make sure you can re-create that magic again and again.
Saving seeds also lets you continuously improve your crops because you can select seeds from plants that do exceptionally well. Gradually over time, you’ll be able to tailor your plants for the perfect fit. Best of all, you save money by growing your own seeds.
Grow heirloom, open-pollinated plants. Hybrid seeds won’t grow true to the parent plant.
Pick the best plants and produce for seed saving. Don’t waste your time with plants that struggle, don’t have a delicious flavor, or aren’t prolific.
Use fully ripe, ready to eat veggies for seed saving. If you take seeds from veggies that aren’t fully mature, you won’t have successful germination.
Dry seeds thoroughly before storing. Wet seeds will mold and won’t germinate.
Store seeds properly. Once you’ve gone to all that work, you don’t want to ruin seeds by storing them wrong.
Make a label and write down the variety of plant and the date you saved them. You’ll be glad you did when you start choosing seeds to plant next spring.
You can put a silica packet in with the seeds to absorb moisture so that your seeds won’t get moldy if you live in a humid area. There’s a type of silica that changes color to indicate when it needs to be replaced. Don’t use silica with legumes.
Plant-by-Plant Guide To Saving Seeds
At the most basic level, seed saving is taking a seed from a ripe plant, drying it, storing it, and then re-planting it next year. That said, different plants require different techniques. Let’s go over a few of the most common plants.
When planting legumes, make sure to plant distinct varieties at least 15 feet apart. This will ensure you don’t have cross-pollination and that your seeds will be true to the variety.
When saving legume seeds, it’s important to let the pods fully ripen. Typically, this means letting them stay on the plant longer than their normal harvest time.
Start by picking out a plant that is healthy and growing particularly well. Mark the plant so that you don’t accidentally forget and pick all the beans. Once the legumes ripen, taste a few to make sure they’re as good as they look. You don’t want to save seeds from poor tasting plants.
If all is well, leave the pods on the plant until they are dry and turning brown. You should be able to hear the beans rattle when you shake the pod. Remove the pods from the mother plant. Don’t take the seeds out yet.
Lay the pods flat in a dry, cool area. I use an old screen door in my shed to dry plants on. Make sure they are protected from critters who may think they are a tasty treat.
After the pods have dried (about two weeks), you can shell them and prepare them for storage. The seeds should be hard so that you can’t make a dent in them with your fingernail. I store my seeds in a glass canning jar. You can also use paper bags.
Bean seeds will remain viable for two to three years.