Seed Saving Fundamentals | Establish a Legacy

Last updated: 10/30/21

Saving seeds is a skill that is as old as man cultivating the lands for survival.  The bible has many parables about seed saving and sowing all throughout it. You know that having your own supply packet of seeds is definitely a good practice of preparedness.  Are you really prepared enough though?

Acquiring your own supply of survival seeds in your storage is a start. It is vital & beneficial to learn the skills of saving seeds for your long term survival.  You will want to practice this skill each year in order to forge this as one of your tools for survival.

Learning this will guarantee that you know what to do if called upon.  You might even get some prize-winning tomatoes out of it.

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Basic of Seed Saving

Understanding the basics of these methods will help you to get a better grasp on the steps you need to do to save seeds.  First, you have to be able to discern the difference in the types of seeds that you want to acquire and ultimately grow.  You also want to know how to store them for long term survival.

Let’s start with some base knowledge of what you need to know and walk you through the steps to get started with this practice:

Open-Pollinated vs Hybrid Seeds

You might have heard a number of different terms when people talk about seeds.  This is an important topic that will help you distinguish what type of seeds you want to start in your collection.  Get this wrong and your next batch of plants will flounder and most certainly not be viable.

  • Open-pollinated – Plants that start from an open-pollinated variety and either self-pollinate or are pollinated by another plant of the same variety, will produce seeds identical to their parental plants.  Simply put, this is the type of seeds that you want to acquire.  These seeds are pure and untainted by science.
  • Heirloom – This term refers to seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation.  Typically, these are at least 50 years old varieties, so they have stood the test of time.   These types of seeds are all open-pollinated in nature, so they are safe to grow for seed saving.
seed saving
  • Non-GMO – This refers to Non-Genetically Modified Organism.  Some seed advertisers have adopted this terminology, but it generally means the same as open-pollinated.  These are also pure seeds
  • Hybrid – These types of seeds must be avoided altogether if you want to save seeds.  Plants grown of this variety were cross-pollinated. Therefore, planting the offspring seeds will not produce the same as parental plants.  You may get plants that never flower or other unwanted qualities. Avoid them like the plague. The seed packets may have an F1 or possibly some other hybrid terminology in the names of it.

Vegetable Planting & Growing Techniques

We won’t delve too deep into this topic, but certainly, check out our gardening site & resources for more information about growing vegetables.  It is still important to seize & adapt a few of these important concepts correctly in order to be successful in saving seeds.

  • Always plant multiple seeds of the varieties you start.  This is important due to the natural law of the “survival of the fittest”.  Make sure that you select the healthiest looking seedling of the bunch to plant in your garden.  This will be helpful in producing strong offspring.
  • Maintain an ideal growing environment throughout the lifespan of the plants is crucial.  Here is the trick – don’t be the overly protecting father. It is ok to allow for the plants to have some stress in the form of competing weeds, insect invasions, and other minor occurrences that plants have.
  • Try and keep other varieties separated from each other.  This topic can in itself be a whole separate discussion. The simple version is to at least keep any hybrid plants away from your open-pollinated plants.  An even better is to not grow any hybrid plants. You want to keep the plants as pure as possible.
seed saving

Seed Saving Tips

The end of the growing season is always a busy time of the year.  This is where you collect the bounty of your harvest. Collecting the seeds that you store for the next year is of utmost importance.  

Many plants will have different ways & methods to collect seeds, so I employ you to do a bit more research on the particular type of plant you want to save seeds from.  Start with some vegetables & fruits that are easy to do like lettuce or watermelon.  

Here are some of the basic tips of seed saving:

  • Make sure that your plants have fully matured.  Knowing the maturation dates will help you to figure out when the plant seeds are ready to collect.  Begin to check the plants for signs of seeds forming. Some plants may change color or the fruiting part may bulge significantly.  Other plants will flower and you’ll start to see signs of decay.
  • Ensure that you collect seeds from your best-performing plants.  Remember, “survival of the fittest” is an important natural selection method.  It is best to avoid saving seeds from plants that did not fruit well unless it is a survival situation.
  • Seed Cleaning is the practice of drying your seeds and removing any plant matter from the seeds prior to storing them.  This is important for long term storage of your seeds

Check out our seed saving videos if you want to see some of these techniques in action here.

Seed Storage Fundamentals

You made it to the point where you have collected a number of seeds from your harvest.  Next, you want to ensure that they are stored away properly for the next growing season.  Make sure that you follow these guidelines to ensure your seeds germinate for you on your next sow.

  • Label each variety of seed that you collect.  Keep notes on how the variety performed and some information about the growing conditions.  You most likely won’t remember this next year and having these details written down will help.
  • Light, Heat, & moisture are the enemies of saving seeds.  It is best to put your seeds in some type of container that is shielded away from heat and light.  For years, we have stored our seeds in mini coin envelopes, tucked away in dark sealed plastic containers and placed in our basement.  We have had seeds germinate from 10 years ago using this simple method.
  • It is best to freeze seeds for longer periods of time.  You want to ensure that they have been sealed specifically in some type of mylar packaging.  Opening and closing these types of seed packets each year may damage the ones you don’t use. The fridge or basement is fine for the shorter storage seeds you plan to plant each season.
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Hopefully, you learned that you need to add seed saving to your toolkit.  It is not a complicated skill to learn and if done right will also save you money at the market each year if you highly adopt this. 

Saving seeds is also preserving our past and ensuring the survival for generations to come.  Check out our post here on saving tomato seeds if you want to start with an easy vegetable seed to save.

Green Thumb Gardener
seed saving
Jeremy Starke

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