When you’re working in a garden, seeds are going to be produced at harvest. Instead of going to the store to purchase new seeds for the next year, a few simple steps at home can preserve the seeds you already have.
The first step to saving seeds is to plan for it. That means you must grow enough plants that will produce what you want or need for food. Then there must be enough extra to be able to save your resources. Some plants struggle to produce seeds if there aren’t many planted in the garden as well, so think about your genetic diversity.
Once you’ve got a plan in place, you’ll be able to take these steps to save your seeds.
What You Need to Do to Collect Your Bounty
Step #1: Collect your seeds.
Some produce, like cucumber and eggplant, are eaten before the seeds fully mature. Others, like beans or lettuce, can be removed once the seeds are dry and hard. Wet-fruited crops need to have their seeds taken when they are mature, which means cutting open the produce to extract the seeds. Gather all your seeds together.
Step #2: Clean your seeds.
You must have clean seeds for them to store properly. If you fail to clean the seeds, you create the risk of transmitting a disease through your garden. Cleaning failures have also been known to create bacterial infections, such as canker, which could wipe out your entire pepper and tomato harvest. Make sure you only save the seeds from healthy plants.
Step #3: Avoid hot water.
Many seeds must avoid hot water cleaning treatments because it will destroy the seed. Squash, beans, and peas are very vulnerable. Unless you’re cleaning tomato seeds, make sure that you’re using cold water – lukewarm at most – to prepare the seeds for storage. Then allow the seeds to properly dry before placing them into a storage container.
Step #4: Store seeds in sealed glass containers.
If you use individual paper packets, you can store multiple seed types within the same large glass container. You must keep the container tightly sealed to prevent moisture contamination. You can include a couple of silica-gel desiccant packets to the container to absorb moisture from the air while it stays sealed. Make sure that you label your seeds too.
Step #5: Maintain the correct temperature.
Seeds typically store well at a temperature that is just above the freezing mark. If you have a spare refrigerator, that is the perfect place – assuming the container remains tightly sealed.
Step #6: Protect your seeds.
Seeds are a tasty treat for many animals when winter comes around. Bugs, birds, and rodents are going to be your primary pests. Don’t rely on the storage container to be your only line of defense. Using wire mesh, high cabinets, and other pest-control methods will help.
Knowing how to save your seeds properly will allow you to plant larger gardens every year without the expense of store-bought seeds. Use this guide to prepare your seeds at harvest to have a fantastic planting season come Spring.