Planning to Save Your Seeds

Gardening involves a lot of planning. In fact, planning before you plant can save you many hours, if not days of backbreaking digging and hauling. It can also save you money. Good garden design and good planning that connects what you eat and what you plant will let you move those veggies seamlessly into some delicious kitchen goodies.

If you’re a great planner, you’ll want to plan for next year’s garden as well. Yes, I’m talking about 2014. 2014? Yes. The vegetables that you plant this year can form the foundation for next year’s garden, but you need to plan for it. If you save seeds, you can stash away an entire garden in your basement or fridge over the winter, and you’ll have an inexpensive way to start your new garden in the spring time.

What plants work best for seed saving?

Look at the labels. If you see a label that says “hybrid” or “F1” and you’d like to save that seed, think again. Hybrid plants are useful for gardens because they grow with very specific characteristics such as rot resistance. However, the parent plants don’t make babies with the same characteristics. If you save seeds from a hybrid plant, you’ll get a surprise next year. The seeds will grow, but they won’t be like the plant you grew the year before. If you’d like a plant that will generally breed true, look for plants labelled “heirloom” or “open pollinated” seeds.

Cross-pollination is another tricky element in the seed saving business. Bees buzz between the different flowers of vegetable plants, and most of the time this is not a problem, since the vegetables are very different. However, if you grow similar sorts of plants like squash, you may get some interesting babies! If the plants are the same species, they will cross pollinate. This means that the squash this year will look normal, but the seeds might produce some interesting crosses. Look at the species name for the plant. If it’s the same, they can cross. Acorn squash, zucchinis, and pattypan squash are all in the same group, even though they look different. If you’d like to get fancy, you can place a bag around the plant’s blossoms to prevent cross-pollination and pollinate them yourself.

If you’re new to seed saving, some seeds are easier to save than others. Some plants have seeds that are simple to shake out and store. Peas and beans simply need to dry out on the vine, then you open them up and store them away. Lettuce and other greens are also very simple to save, since you let them dry out, then shake the seeds off. If you’re trying to start seed saving this year, start with these easy plants and see how it goes.

Image Credit: Hello Julie / CC by 2.0