Gardening is filled with plenty of its own rewards. One I never tire of is the joy of watching seeds I saved from a parent plant take root and begin to sprout. I enjoy the sense of pride I feel in knowing that I played an active role in perpetuating the next generation. It’s always exciting!
Saving seeds is an easy process once you know a few basic steps. First off, you should understand that not all seeds produce a plant that is identical to the parent plant. Hybrids, or first generation plants from two separate parent varieties, are an example of this. Open pollinated, or non-hybrids, can be expected to produce the same variety from seed as the parent. Heirloom varieties are an example of this type.
When collecting seeds from plants, you will find that some seeds are contained within fruit like tomatoes, others are found within a pod such as beans, and yet others are located on leaflets as spores like ferns. For this article, we’ll talk about seeds contained within fruits.
All seeds intended for storage should be clean and dry. This is usually a simple process to achieve. However, with some popular vegetables such as tomatoes and others that are incased in a gelatin-like substance, there are a few extra steps.
The first step is to scoop this material into a jar along with the seeds. You may want to add a small amount of water at this point. Now a fermentation process occurs that is actually good for tomato seeds. It kills off harmful bacteria and removes an inhibitor that would otherwise prevent these seeds from germinating. Let the fermenting seeds soak for about five days or until the fleshy material is no longer apparent.
Next, thoroughly rinse the seeds until they appear clean. A screen-mesh strainer works well for this. Then allow the seeds to dry by spreading them out on a coffee filter. With other paper products, such as paper towels, the seeds may stick. The drying process can take several days, so be patient.
Now, for all seed types, they should be clean and completely dry before storing. Seeds are dry when they will snap, crush, or break into smaller pieces when smashed. Seeds that are not dry enough will only bend. This dry test can be applied to just about all seeds.
The seeds to be stored must be kept completely dry. Airtight containers such as resealable plastic bags or film canisters work well. I even place a small packet of silica in with my seeds. These packets are found in many new products you purchase such as shoes and electronics. These packets are there for the same reason you need them. They absorb moisture.
The final step is to place the seeds in a cool dry place until you are ready to use them. The refrigerator is an ideal location. Most seeds saved and stored will last for several years under the proper conditions. A little work on the front end will provide many seasons of enjoyment and the convenience and assurance of having your favorite seeds available whenever you need them.