Saving seeds from your flowers and vegetables allows to you regrow your most prized crops and save a few pounds along the way. Here are our top ten tips for seed saving success…
Pick from your healthiest plants
When championship growers want to produce the biggest and best veg in the show, they’ll collect seeds from their biggest and best plants. That’s because the most successful plants produce the best quality seeds. Follow this practice and only take seeds from your healthiest specimens.
Stick to true breeds
Some plant hybrids have been cultivated in a way that makes them produce unreliable seeds, so you may not always get the same quality of plants as the ones the seeds come from. True breeds are much more reliable.
Wait for pods to dry…
Veg plants such as runner beans, or flowers like sweet peas and poppies, keep their seeds safe in specially designed cases until they’re ready to be released for germination. This happens when the pods dry and begin to crack, and this is the best time to collect them.
…and for fleshy fruit to ripen
Similarly, fleshy fruits like tomatoes want to keep hold of their seeds until they’re in the best condition for germination. This is when the fruit is at its ripest and showiest. Under-ripe tomatoes are less tasty and less appealing to look at because the plant isn’t yet ready for wildlife to gobble and distribute its seeds. When the time is right they alert all passers-by with their vibrant colours and enticing sweet aromas, so be patient and pick at their peak.
Make a seed mat
For really fussy, fiddly, fleshy seeds you could try making a ‘seed mat’ – a thin piece of paper with the seeds attached that can be planted as one. To do this rinse the seeds and let them dry on coffee filter paper – they’ll stick to the paper, ready for sowing the following season (note, it’s not advisable to store seed mats beyond their first sowing opportunity).
Keep seeds clean
Dirty seeds can easily deteriorate due to infections and other potential nasties, so carefully clean any seeds that are covered in mud or debris, discarding imperfect seeds as you go. This is easy for large seeds such as our beans but those tomatoes need a bit more attention as their flesh is a bit clingy. Either scoop out the seeds and dry them first before painstakingly picking away the fleshy bits, or soak in water to help remove those unwanted bits before drying.
Dry your seeds
If you want to store your seeds for the following year (and even beyond) then they’ll need to be thoroughly dry first. Any seeds that still have a bit of moisture in them (or, more likely given our climate, are covered in rain) can be spread out somewhere warm like a windowsill or greenhouse. Make sure they have a good air flow around them by keeping the seeds apart and turning them if they’re laid out for any length of time.
The best place for seed storage is somewhere cool and dry. Envelopes make ideal containers as they can be easily sealed and don’t take up much room. Tuck them in a drawer or cupboard – or if you have room then you can even keep them in the fridge.
Label your seeds
Anyone who has been collecting seeds for a while will know that it’s easy to get them mixed up if you don’t organise them properly. Always label your seeds with the plant name and date of collection. And if you’ve followed our storage advice then you’ll notice that envelopes also are the easiest containers to write upon!
If you want to increase your collection of seeds then try swapping yours with gardening friends and allotment neighbours. You might even find some local organisations hold seed swap events, expanding your network of gardening contacts and boosting your seed collection even more.