By Michelle Domocol
Some of the most important parts of plant cultivation occur after fruits and vegetables matures. So far my blog posts describe seedling care and daily garden maintenance. After harvest, what happens? What about collecting or saving seed from your prized flowers, vegetables, fruits or trees?
Will the seeds we collect be viable?
These are all fair questions from a beginner seed collector. If you want your plant to be ever-giving, here are some tips to extract its seeds.
- Choose a flower, vegetable, fruit, or other amazing plant in your garden. Make sure it came from non-GMO and open-pollinated seeds. These plants are viable and can pass on their genetic traits. Photo 1 shows popular vegetables and flowers that produce seeds you can save. These include lettuce, beans, tomatoes, squashes, eggplants and cucumber. Irises, marigolds, hibiscus and sunflowers are flower seeds you can also collect.
Garden Bonus! Download this fun seed saving envelope activity. Happy Seed Collecting!
- Collect seeds from plants that have favorable features or traits. If you like your corn’s flavor, color or size, collect the seed. Or maybe your gardenia’s petals were huge and produced a brilliant yellow. Save the seeds so you can grow more! Seed saving may generate custom garden full of plants you curated and collected.
- Once you pick a plant for seed collection, observe how the seed matures and how the plant sheds the seeds. For instance, cucumbers and eggplants chosen for seed collection need to stay on the plant longer than the crops chosen for eating. The seeding cucumbers and eggplants are only harvested when the seeds mature. Mature seeds can withstand drying and storage. Do some research and ask fellow gardeners about your target plant. Observations of your personal plants form the best guidance.
- Identify the type of seed your desired plant produces. Do they have dry seed cases like sitaw beans? If your plant has dried seed cases like many bean varieties, garlics and onions, then remove the seed head by hand. Then use a paper bag to catch the individual seeds inside the seed head. Other gardeners may shake the mature seed pods or seed heads so they fall into a bucket.
Or maybe you have a plant with seed pods split open? Or perhaps the seeds naturally pop out of the seed case? Will you be threshing or winnowing to separate some seeds from their seed cases? Or, like mango, will you remove your seed from the older, fleshy fruit? Once you find out your plant’s seeding behavior, then you can use the best way to catch and harvest the seed.
- Make sure you use the correct method to clean and store your seeds. Fungal diseases, rain, hungry insects and even hungrier birds can threaten your seed collection process, so be vigilant.
Saved seeds can be stored in paper envelopes, water-tight jars, camera film cases, and glass jars. Some gardeners then store the containers of seeds in a refrigerator or a cool, dry, dark cupboard.
Make your batches of seed are labelled. Labels can include the seed collection date, plant names, and the plant’s notable traits or features.
Garden Bonus! Download my seed saving envelope activity. Creating unique seed envelopes or other types of seed containers can inspire you and curious, young gardeners. Happy Seed Collecting!