Seed Saving, the Secret to Survival of Your Vegetable Garden & Food Security
It’s all well and good to buy seeds, but what do we do when the shops run out of seeds? Seed saving is the answer here. Not only that, saving your own seeds is rewarding. It makes sure that special vegetable varieties remain available.
Seeds are essential to life. Without seeds, we don’t have plants and without plants, we don’t have food. Not of the plant-variety anyway. Saving your own seeds also gives you the opportunity to create a “super vegetable”. Always choose the healthiest plants to collect seeds from. This way, you’ll create stronger and stronger plants.
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. … the fruit of the tree whose seed shall be food for you.”–Genesis 1:29
One more reason. Big multinational corporations have been buying up smaller seed companies. Big corporations are hybridizing our seeds. They’re creating weird, potentially less-nutritious vegetables. They can also prevent you from growing these seeds.
Many of their seeds are GMO’d and they are not suitable for propagation. They simply won’t germinate or they will grow a plant with inferior fruits, or no fruits at all. What we need is LESS control from governments and big corporations, not MORE! And who knows what sort of toxic chemicals they are injecting into these seeds?! Saving seeds is a way for you to take matters into your own hands.
You may have heard of seed monopolies caused by big corp. A lot of big corporations also make fertilizers and pesticides. They’re trying to get control of all the seeds so they can coordinate them with their products. We don’t want a world where our vegetables can only be grown by using a particular product! We want strong, resilient food plants.
The European Commissions’s so-called “Better Regulation Framework”:
“From the very start of the process in 2008, this policy initiative has been a unique opportunity for large seed companies to reinforce their control over a commercial seed supply system that they already largely dominate. Nowadays, 64% of the global seed market is controlled by 10 companies only, with the first 4 companies alone controlling 58% of this market.”—Who will control the Green Economy, ETC Group, December 2011.
“As long as the maximization of profit remains the cornerstone of acquisitive society and capitalist economy, corporations will retain their interest in scarcity as a creator of economic value.” —German-born economist, Erich W. Zimmermann
Don’t let them steal your seeds! Make sure you have the food supply you need, especially for your vitamins and minerals. Seed saving is a way of life. Let’s go through some tips to make seed saving work for you.
How beautiful is this wildflower array! If your plan is to sit back and let Mother Nature do her thing, then this is probably the wildflower mix for you. Once you’ve done the proper soil prep and sowed the seed, you’re done! Our All-Perennial Wildflower Seed Mix contains many of the most beloved perennial wildflowers including Lupine, Flax, Coreopsis, and Shasta Daisy. Suitable for all regions of North America…. [More]
As they ripen, seeds will change color. The color depends on the variety, but they may change from green to yellow, brown or black. Generally, collect your seeds just before they fall off the plant.
You can harvest seed capsules can be a little earlier, before they’ve become fully dry. Some seed pods will open op and the seeds shoot out. This is a way for the plant to survive, it launches the seeds and they will germinate in their own, new spot. You can harvest seeds in pods just before this happens.
Another method is to bag them. Tie a bag around the pods when you think they are about to pop. Your bags will collect the seeds.
Choose a good day to collect seed. A clear, dry day is best. Humidity is not your friend in this exercise. Any dampness can cause your seeds to go moldy.
If you don’t have a plant to save seed from yet, I’ve found Eden Brothers to be one of the best seed supply companies in the US. Their seeds are all non-GMO and their range is exceptional. You can find anything from heirloom seeds to special pollination packs. They also have things like heirloom tomato packs and other seed collections.
They offer a great map to find your USDA zone, so you know what you can grow in your garden. Here’s the map, click on it to go to Eden Brother’s website to enter your zip code:
They also offer tutorials on planting certain varieties, a small selection is below.
This is often not thought-about as seed saving, but it definitely is. By letting your plants self-seed, you are ensuring their survival. Seeds will find their own spots and the ones that grow are often strong and resilient. I truly believe in letting plants pick their own spot.
This is not hard to do. It is particularly successful with herbs like parsley and basil, and lettuce is another great one. All you need to do is nothing. Let your plant do its thing, let it flower. Let it go to seed and let nature do the rest.
During the process of self-seeding, the plant itself is not nice to eat. All energy is going to seed production and the plant can become very bitter in taste. Leave it be. Have other plants for eating, problem solved.
Cleaning and Storing DRY Saved Seeds
Put your seeds into something paper. A paper bag, paper towel, cardboard box, or special seed saving envelopes. Allow the seeds to completely dry out, then store them in a cool, dry, dark place.
After 1-3 weeks when your seed is completely dry, separate the seeds from the pods, capsules or each other. Rub the seed between your fingers to get rid of anything that is not a seed.
Store the clean, completely dry seeds in a seed saving envelope, paper bag or cotton material. It is important that your seeds can breathe so that any remaining moisture can escape. Don’t forget to name and date your packaging.
Cleaning and Storing WET Saved Seeds
Some seeds you want to save are wet. Actually, quite a lot of seeds. By wet, I mean the seeds from tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumber. Anything in pulp.
Scoop out the seeds. There will be pulp attached. Put your seeds in a big container and run water over them. While the water is running, rub them gently but firmly between your hands. The pulp will separate from the seed.
If it doesn’t separate, leave the seeds in water for up to 24 hours. The pulp will ferment, loosen, and float to the top. The seeds will sink. You can now scoop the pulp out and now you have separated it from the seeds. Rinse your seeds in a colander, you may need to line it with cheesecloth for fine seeds.
Spread your clean seeds on a plate or tray to completely dry out. When it is dry, follow the instructions above, under “Cleaning and Storing DRY Saved Seeds”.
When I’m lazy or I only have 1 tomato to deal with, I spread the seed out on a paper towel. I leave them to dry for a morning, and then I plant them, paper towel and all. I cut the paper towel into little squares before I plant them. You might get 2 or 3 seeds per square but that’s OK. You can always thin them out later.
This is a super-fast way to grow more vegetables.
Protecting Saved Seeds
There are many animals that love to eat your saved seeds. Mice will go for anything. We have weevils, ants, all sorts of things. Include some dried leaves of herbs with your seeds. Bay, eucalyptus, and rosemary are a good start. Add some diatomaceous earth to your dried seeds too. It works for fleas on dogs, it’s a good start for bugs in your seeds!
For rodents and bigger predators, store in decent containers. Hardy plastic, tins, glass containers, something like that. You can buy beautiful seed saving containers too, look at the galvanized one in the picture!
You can add some silica crystals if you’re worried about moisture or you live in a humid climate. You can put them in with the seeds and they will soak up any moisture. This will prevent mold and premature germination.
Treated like this, most seeds will last for many years. They are best planted as soon as possible, but you will find success for much longer than you expect.
Your own seed is easy to grow. Most of it already grew in your region, so they’re used to your climate and conditions. Plant them in pots, raised gardens, or straight into your in-ground garden. You can start them in seedling trays or broad-scatter them throughout existing gardens.
You’ll collect 1000’s of seeds from some plants (like lettuce!). Scatter them far and wide. If you don’t eat them, something else will appreciate it. Chickens love lettuce, scatter them around the chicken coop. Birds love buckwheat, let them have it.
You can use your own seeds to eat as sprouts too. A sprouting setup is easiest to deal with when you start out, but you can grow them in simple glass jars too. Grow beans for this, chickpeas, alfalfa… Sprouts are super nutritious.
You can use sesame seeds on your baking – sausage rolls love them!
Jack of all trades, master of some. Precision editor, wild garden grower. Loves creating stuff. From food forests and survival gardens to soap and yoghurt. A girl on a farm with two kids and one husband (yep, just one - although another one would be handy). Weirdly enjoys fixing fences and digging holes. Qualified permaculture teacher and garden go-to.