How to Save Seeds: Seed Saving for Beginners


Learning how to save seeds will help you increase your self-sufficiency and grow healthy, productive plants year after year. Learn more about seed saving with this comprehensive guide!Learning how to save seeds will help you increase your self-sufficiency and grow healthy, productive plants year after year. Learn more about seed saving with this comprehensive guide!

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It’s officially fall, which means it’s time to start wrapping things up in the garden, save of course for those fall crops like beets and brussels sprouts that we planted mid-summer to take us through the fall and right into the winter.

But aside from prepping our annual garden beds for winter and continuing to preserve the last of the summer harvest before we pull all of our summer annuals out of our garden, this is also the time of year when we need to think about saving seeds for the coming year and beyond.

Of course, you don’t need to save seeds. You can always purchase them from a seed catalogue or local garden supply store. But if you can save seeds, there are many reasons why you should.

 

Why you should save seeds

1. First of all, learning how to save seeds allows you to take one more step toward self-sufficiency. By saving seeds, you’ll be able to produce your own seed and stop relying on outside sources to provide seed for you (plus, you’ll save money too).

2. Second, saving seeds from your healthiest, most robust, most productive plants and replanting them year after year means you’ll create your own strain of healthy seeds that are specially adapted and optimized for your specific environment, which tends to mean higher germination rates, bigger harvests and less disease.

3. Finally, saving seeds allows you a unique opportunity to create your own heirloom seeds to pass down through generations in your family. By handing down family heirloom seeds, you’ll be passing on a legacy and gifting future generations with the gift of self-sufficiency. How cool is that??

But before you start saving seeds, there are a few things you need to know to ensure the seeds you’re saving are actually viable.

Before I dive into how to save seeds, I also made a video on the subject, so if you’re more of a visual or auditory learner, I’ve included the video just below. Otherwise keep scrolling to read more:)

 

The Science of Seed Saving

Hybrids, Heirlooms and Open-Pollinated Plants

When you’re just getting started seed saving, the first thing you need to know is whether or not the plant you want to save seeds from is an open-pollinated, heirloom or hybrid plant.

You only want to save seeds from open-pollinated plants because these plants will produce seeds that will reproduce true to their parent plant (meaning the seeds will regrow into the same type of plant as they came from).

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds that have been carefully selected from the healthiest, most productive plants and passed down through generations. These are a fantastic choice for seed saving! All heirloom plants are open-pollinated plants, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirloom plants. Still, either or will produce seeds that can be saved.

Don’t waste your time trying to save seeds from hybrid plants. Hybrids are plants created by humans deliberately cross-breeding two different plant species to make a new type of plant that has certain desirable traits from both parent plants. They’re not GMOs (they’re not created in a lab and crossed with different species and all sorts of other weird things), but they’re not completely natural, in the sense that they wouldn’t necessarily cross-pollinate with each other without man’s intervention.

That being said, if you try to save seeds from a hybrid plant, when you replant the seed, the plant that grows won’t be the same as the plant that you saved the seed from. Instead, it will either revert back to one of the parent plants that were used to create the hybrid plant, or it will be a strange combination of the two that might be edible, but usually ends up being generally pretty unpalatable So why bother growing it and taking up valuable garden space, right?

You can often tell if store-bought seeds are hybrids or open pollinated seeds by checking the packet. Open-pollinated seeds will be marked with the abbreviation “OP,” as in the image below.

Learning how to save seeds will help you increase your self-sufficiency and grow healthy, productive plants year after year. Learn more about seed saving with this comprehensive guide! #seedsaving #howtosaveseeds

(Pay no attention to my nails, which obviously need another manicure! *Dies of embarrassment*)

Hybrid seeds will be marked with “F1,” short for Filial 1, which essentially means the first generation of a plant from two cross-bred parent plants.

As for GMOs, home gardeners and small, organic farmers don’t need to worry about planting GMO seeds by mistake. GMO seeds are sold directly from the supplier (typically Monsanto) to the farmer (typically large-scale, monoculture crop farmers). They’re not just on the shelves at your local garden supply store.

 

Cross-Pollinating Vs. Self-Pollinating Plants

The next thing you’ll need to know before saving seeds is whether or not the plants you’re saving seeds from are cross-pollinating or self-pollinating plants. 

Cross pollinating plants require pollen from other plants in the same species in order to become fertilized. Self-pollinating plants fertilize themselves. This difference is important because cross-pollinating plants can actually cross with different varieties of plant in the same species, which can result in seeds that grow into plants that are a strange mix of the two parent plants rather than the plant that you saved them from (similar to the offspring from hybrid plants).

So, for example, squash are cross-pollinating plants and different varieties are notorious for crossing with each other. Pumpkins can cross with spaghetti squash, zucchinis can cross with butternuts and the resulting offspring can be a strange mix of both parent plants that’s actually quite unlike the plant that you saved it from. Plants in the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc), will also cross-pollinate with each other.

While it is possible to save seeds from cross-pollinating plants, it can take a fair amount of time, effort and experience to get it right.

Self-pollinating plants, on the other hand, are incredibly easy to save seeds from even if you’re a new gardener or seed saver. Seeds from self-pollinating plants will breed true, meaning they’ll produce offspring that are the same plant as the one you saved them from.

Self-pollinating plants include peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. 

 

Choosing which plants to save seeds from

When saving seeds from the plants in your garden, select the healthiest, best producing plants to save seeds from. Just like humans and animals, plants take on the characteristics of their parents, so if you want to produce strong, healthy, high-yielding offspring, start with strong, healthy, high-yielding parent parent plants.

Next, let the fruit ripen completely before saving seeds. Let it over-ripen, even. This helps ensure that the seeds have matured as much as possible and mimics the natural conditions of a plant that is ready to seed itself.

 

How to save seeds from peas and beans

Learning how to save seeds will help you increase your self-sufficiency and grow healthy, productive plants year after year. Learn more about seed saving with this comprehensive guide! #seedsaving #howtosaveseeds

Peas and beans are probably the easiest plants to save seeds from. Just let the pods ripen and dry out on the vine, then pop them open and take the large seeds out. Lay them out to dry somewhere indoors where there is good air circulation, but out of direct sunlight. (Also, don’t use a dehydrator as the higher heat can affect germination rates).

Once the seeds are completely dry they’re ready to store. If you’re not sure if they’re dry enough, push the edge of your fingernail into the side of the seed. If it makes a dent, they’re not quite dry enough yet. Leave them out to dry for a bit longer. If there’s no dent, they’re dry and ready to store.

 

How to save seeds from tomatoes and peppers

Tomato and pepper seeds grow inside the fruit, as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve ever cut into one of these common fruits/vegetables (and who hasn’t?)

Let the tomatoes or peppers you’ll be saving seeds ripen fully on the vine before harvesting them. Then, to save seeds, simply cut them open and remove the seeds from the inside. 

For peppers, all you need to do is lay out the seeds and let them dry just like peas and beans. For tomatoes, technically you can do the same, but allowing them to ferment for a couple days actually makes it easier to save seeds from them AND makes the seeds more viable in the end. 

To ferment tomato seeds, remove them from the tomato and put them in a jar along with whatever pulp that’s naturally attached to them. Then, cover with a couple inches of water and place a coffee filter or some cheesecloth on top (just to keep bugs out).

How to Save Seeds: Seed Saving for Beginners

I’ve got some tomato seeds here that have been fermenting in water for about 4 days. It’s time to strain them out and dry them to store for next year!

After three or four days the seeds are ready to be dried. First of all, discard any seeds that have floated to the top. Usually this is a sign that those seeds are not viable, so fermenting helps to weed out the “bad” seeds. Next, dump the water out and strain the seeds through a fine mesh sieve. Run them under cold water and gently rub them against the sieve until all of the pulp washes away. You’ll be left with nice, clean tomato seeds.

Lay clean tomato seeds out to dry (I like to put mine on a paper towel) and allow them to air dry for a few days until completely dry, then store.

 

How to save lettuce seeds

Lettuce seeds are easy to save, but a little more finicky. To save lettuce seeds, allow the plant to flower and let the flowers die and go to seed. The flower heads will turn white and fluffy, similar to what dandelion flowers look like once they’ve gone to seed.

Pull out the white fluffy bits and the seeds will be attached to the ends. Gently pull the seeds off and discard the fluff. Dry seeds and store.

 

Saving seeds from biennial plants

Some plants are called biennials which means they take two years to produce seeds. Biennials include carrots, beets and onions. 

In order to save seeds from these plants, you’ll want to leave them in the ground to over winter. Then they’ll start growing again in the spring and by late spring/early summer you should be able to collect the seeds.

 

How to store seeds properly

All seeds should be completely dry before storing. They should be kept in a paper envelope or paper bag to ensure they are well aerated and won’t go moody if there’s any hint of moisture left in or around them. However if they are really dry, you can store them in a Mason jar or even a plastic ziplock bag. Paper envelopes are best though, which is why store-bought seeds are sold in similar style packets. You can purchase small envelopes for storing seeds here.

Store seeds in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Most seeds will be viable for up to four years after saving them. Some will stay good much longer than that. But as a general rule, germination rates drop with every year that the seeds are not planted, so newer seeds are better.

Finally, ALWAYS label your seeds! You think you’ll remember which are which, but you won’t always, especially if the seeds are from the same species of plant but different varieties and the seeds look similar.

You can also download some free printable labels for your seed packets from our Resource Library. Just search the “Labels” section of the library!

There’s so much more we could dive into on the topic of seeds and seed saving, but that’s more than enough to get you started!

 

To summarize…

  • Only save seeds from open-pollinated and/or heirloom plants.
  • Choose self-pollinating plants if you’re just getting started or want to keep things simple.
  • Save seeds from your healthiest, most vigorous, highest-yielding plants.
  • Allow fruit to ripen completely before saving seeds to ensure the seeds have had enough time to fully mature.
  • Air dry seeds completely before storing. Keep them out of direct sunlight and high temperatures.
  • Store seeds in a cool, dark, dry place, preferably in a paper envelope or bag to ensure good airflow and no chance of mold.

Oh, and here’s some more info to help you with seed-saving:

 

Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness:)

 

 

 

 


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1 Comment

  1. Janet

    Thank you! Very clear, helpful instructions. I have an OP green bean (actually purple beans that cook up green) that I want to plant again next year and I left some plants with beans on them in the garden. Now I know what to do with them to grow again.

    Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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In fact, I’m all about everything fall: the colours, the coziness, the sweater weather, and yes, pumpkins and pumpkin spice. There’s just something comforting and nostalgic about it; Like grandma’s kitchen or the warm scent of pumpkin pie that wafts from the table at holiday dinners with family and friends.

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Also, you should always cover your soil, especially over the winter months when soil is more likely to erode and nutrients can get washed away. A cover crop or a thick layer of mulch is a good idea to help keep your soil protected and intact.

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I'm taking you into our garden as we're tearing it down and planting out our garlic. I'll show you our fall gardening routine and I'll walk you through planting garlic so you can start growing it at home too! (It's honesty the easiest, most rewarding crop that we grow).

It's time for the grand finale in the garden this year as we tear it down and prep it for next spring. Will you join me for one last hurrah?

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Sometimes I question why I do what I do. Why do I take on so much? Why do I bother making everything from scratch and growing a garden and preserving food when I could just as well buy it from the store and save myself a ton of time and effort?⁣⁣⁣
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Why am I working hard to build a business out of my passion when I could just as easily go to work for a pay check and just enjoy homesteading as a hobby on the side?⁣⁣⁣
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Why do I choose to do everything the hard way and see against the grain? Why not just go with the flow and hope for the best?⁣⁣⁣
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I can’t say for sure that I would have chosen to follow all the same paths that I’ve gone down over the past few years had I not become a mother, but what I 𝘥𝘰 know for sure is that my beautiful daughter is worth every ounce of hard work; every dollar I’ve invested in our future goals and dreams; every late night work fest and canning session; every seed planted and loaf of bread baked.⁣

She’s worth it because I want to give her the best I can in life. I want her to eat good food and live a long and healthy life. I want to teach her how to be self-sufficient so that she has the skills she needs no matter what kind of world awaits her in the future. And I want to show her that anything is possible and any dream is worth pursuing, even if the work that it takes to achieve it is harder than following the herd and taking the road of least resistance.⁣⁣⁣
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This little human right here: this is my why. This girl and her goofy smile make everything worthwhile ❤️⁣⁣⁣
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What (or who?) is your why?
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This growing season has seriously been the strangest I’ve experienced so far. Summer came so late we thought it wasn’t gonna come at all. Our greens and peas and spring crops produced for weeks longer then they normally do as we waited FOREVER for our tomatoes and peppers and summer crops to grow and ripen.

Now that we’re into October, we’re having a warm spell and the garden is acting like it’s summer! The tomatoes are all just starting to turn red, the cucumbers and zucchini are still givin’er, the pumpkins and squash are having another growth spurt, and now the green beans are starting on round two after about a month of dormancy!

We’re supposed to be going fishing tomorrow, and I’m wondering if the salmon are a little late this year too...

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Can you imagine how bland and boring our food (and life) would be without spices??⁣

Seriously! We take them for granted nowadays because they’re so readily available in our pantries and on grocery store shelves. But for thousands of years throughout history, spices were coveted, revered and hard to get. For around 1,500 years, spices travelled overland on camelback and horseback on the Silk Road from China to the west. And then, just over 500 years ago, explorers set out into the unknown to find a maritime trading route, and one of those explorers just so happened to stumble on the Americas along the way, essentially shaping history and the modern world as we know it. ⁣

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I’d love to tell you so much more right here, but I’m a bit limited on space! However, you can read more about the fascinating story of spices, their culinary and medicinal uses, how to put them to use in your kitchen and yes, even how to grow them at home in the October issue.⁣

So if you’re already subscribed, be sure to check your inbox for the latest issue (it came out yesterday). And if you’re NOT yet subscribed, then head on over and click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to subscribe for FREE, and get the latest issue delivered straight to your inbox!⁣

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In the garden, some plants are dead or dying. There’s brown, crispy stems, dried pea pods bursting with next year’s seeds and a natural layer of mulch in the form of fallen leaves. But at the same time there’s still so much life. So much greenery and colour. So much of summer still left.⁣

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But this year our return to our “normal” fall routines is anything but. For many families, there is no return to school. Not in the traditional sense anyway. Instead, more families than ever before have found themselves educating their children at home for the first time, whether by force or by choice. And trying to balance all of the usual September tasks with navigating full-time homeschooling can feel daunting, to say the least.⁣

I know we can all use as much help and expert advice as we can get at this time, so I’m honoured to have Ginny Aaron, a full-time homeschooling, homesteading mom of three sharing her wisdom on the blog this week. She’s generously shared her best tips for incorporating homeschooling with your existing routine and finding the teachable moments in the every day so that you don’t need to uproot your life or find another 7 hours in your day to recreate a classroom environment at home.⁣

I just love Ginny’s approach to homeschooling and if you’re anything like me, I think you will too. You can check out her full post by clicking the link in my bio or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/homeschooling-on-the-homestead/

It’s also Ginny's first time guest posting so be sure to leave a comment while you’re there and let us know what school looks like for your family this year.⁣

Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead
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I’ve been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders lately. Between balancing work and the garden and all of the canning and preserving tasks this time of year, I’ve already got enough on my plate. Add a string of social commitments, back-to-school and extracurricular activities, and I’m definitely feeling the pressure, as I usually do this time of year.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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But lump on a pandemic, worsening political tensions, division and civil unrest, intensifying environmental disasters (we’re currently socked in with smoke from the California wildfires), and it all just becomes too much to bear some days.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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I know I’m far from the only one who’s feeling this way. And yet, we all have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going even when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed and burnt out. Even when the present is frightening and the future is uncertain.⁣

I’ve developed some strategies over the past few years that have helped me keep moving forward and get things done even when I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, and I want to share them with others who need help coping with stress and overwhelm right now too.⁣⁣
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You can check out my list of 10 tips for managing stress and overwhelm on the homestead (and in life!) by clicking the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead and then clicking the link to the full blog post at the top.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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You can also grab my free time management planner by clicking the link in my bio and then clicking on “Free Resource Library,” (find it under “Homesteading & Self-Sufficiency Resources” in the library).⁣⁣⁣
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No matter what you’re struggling with right now, I hope some of these tips help keep you navigate these extra stressful times and stay focused and moving forward with your to-do list, as well as with your big goals and dreams. But most of all, I hope it reminds you that if you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed right now, you’re not alone.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead to read more.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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I don’t think I have a jar big enough for this pickling cucumber 🥒 ⁣

What do you do with the huge pickling cukes that inevitably get missed in the garden??⁣

Please leave suggestions below! I’ve got two of ‘em! 😂
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Late summer is truly the time of abundance (and by far the busiest time of year for us).⁣⁣⁣
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We’ve got so much food that’s ripe for the picking in our own garden, plus baskets full of produce that we purchase locally when it’s in season and preserve for the winter.⁣⁣⁣
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Between harvesting and preserving (and trying my best to document it all for you along the way), there’s little time for much else in August.⁣⁣⁣
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We’re busy sweating in the garden and the kitchen, working around the clock to preserve all of the fruits (and vegetables) of summer so that come winter we hunker down and relax knowing we’ve got a pantry full of food to sustain us.⁣⁣⁣
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While there have been more times than I like to admit when I’ve asked myself why we do this when we could be at the beach or floating down the river like everyone else, come winter I am ALWAYS grateful for the time and energy we invested in the spring, summer and fall to grow and preserve all of the food that lines our pantry shelves.⁣⁣⁣
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With everything that 2020 has brought so far (and more uncertainty to come), this year I’m feeling grateful even in the thick of it; Even while I’m sweating and pulling late night canning sessions and constantly scraping dirt out from under my nails. This year it’s more apparent than ever how much growing and preserving our own food is worth the time and effort that it takes.⁣⁣⁣
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If you feel the same way and you’re looking to get even better at gardening, preserving and homesteading in general, or maybe you’re finally ready to start living a more sustainable lifestyle where YOU have control over your food supply, I highly encourage you to check out the Gardening & Sustainable Living Bundle (link in bio @thehouseandhomestead). It’s packed with almost $600 worth of resources designed to help you take control of your food security and live a more self-sufficient life, and it’s on sale today only for just $19.99!⁣

If you ask me, we would all be wise to invest in our own food security as we head into fall and winter 2020, so click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to grab your bundle now. The sale ends tonight at midnight so don’t wait!!
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