How to Grow: Saving Seeds

Learn how to save your own seeds and the best ones to save.

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Lettuce Blooming, Lettuce, Blossom, Summer, PlantLeo Aikman once said, “a good gardener always plants 3 seeds – one for the bugs, one for the weather and one for himself.” I’d like to add and one to save as well.

Saving seeds isn’t for every gardener but there are great reasons to do it. Saving seeds saves you money, preserves unusual heirloom varieties and helps you develop varieties adapted to your yard. With concerns about plant extinction and rare home varieties becoming unavailable, the best way to ensure you have the varieties you want is to save your own seed.

But saving seed vegetable and flower seed can be tricky. For the beginner, start with plants that don’t cross pollinate and stay true to their original variety. Avoid hybrid plants. Hybrids have been created from two different parents and the off spring will not be the same variety you first grew.

Some of the easiest vegetables to save include beans, peas, and lettuce. Tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers can be cross pollinated by insects, but for a home gardener simply growing them on separate sides of the garden should be enough to keep the variety relatively pure. For flowers, try calendula, cleome, morning glory, poppy and marigolds. These flower seeds are easy to collect once the flower is mature.

To collect seed from veggies or flowers, let the fruits or flowers mature fully. Watch the plant, not letting the flower seeds drop to the ground before you collect them. On a dry day, carry small plastic bags with a marker around the garden and collect seeds from flowers by placing the dried flower head or fruit into the bag. Mark the variety in each bag. Separate the seed from the chafe or fruit, let the seed dry in a warm, well ventilated room and then store in a dark, cool room in glass jars.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.