There are a wide range of reasons that a person may want to start saving seeds. That being said, there are also a ton of different methods for saving, drying, and storing seeds.
It is important that when using seed saving techniques, you first know a bit about why you may need to save seeds, how you can save them, and how to use them after they have been saved.
Knowing some possible uses for seeds that you have dried and stored can help make sense of the process and make it that much easier to get started and to carry through to the end.
See this fantastic trailer for “Seed: The Untold Story” to learn more about this lost art:
The first and most obvious reason that you may want to try seed saving is that it is great for replanting.
Not only does it save you money from year to year, it can also help you preserve species that you liked the year before, customize your garden, and really get a feel for how to utilize every part of the plants you grow.
When it comes to saving tomato seeds for replanting you may want to look into saving heirloom tomato seeds for a bit of variety. An heirloom tomato comes from old seeds essentially.
For a tomato to be considered heirloom, it has to come from seeds that have been saved for a time or from seeds that came from an heirloom tomato.
Another reason you may want to stock up on seeds it to help stock your survival kit. Though you can buy seeds from the store, if times were to get difficult, it would be necessary to be able to store and save your own seeds.
In a survival scenario, seeds would become invaluable. In times when meat and other foods were scarce for instance you would be able to reach into your seed stores and get the seeds to grow your own food.
When it comes to survival, seeds are also very small, very light, and very easy to store making them a fantastic element in any survival kit.
Seed Saving Supplies
It is crucial that before you start your seed saving venture you figure out just what seed saving supplies you need.
There are a few specialty items that you can buy but that are not essential to the process as a whole. A seed saving guide for instance can be helpful, but it is not completely necessary.With a little research and some trial and error, anyone can come up with their own seed saving guide.
Saving seeds from tomatoes for instance does not need a guide as long as you have plenty of tomatoes and plenty of time to experiment.
The basic supplies you will need are your vegetables to harvest seeds from, a knife to access the seeds, a spoon or scoop to harvest the seeds, a receptacle to catch and wash the seeds, and a dish and wax paper or butcher paper to dry the seeds.
If you are going to use assisted drying methods you may need a seed dryer, a dehydrator, or an oven.
Seed Drying Steps:
The first step to saving tomato seeds, saving cucumber seeds, saving pepper seeds, or any seeds that you may decide to save, is of course harvesting your seeds.
Harvesting starts with the proper dissection of the fruit or veggie that you are going to save seeds from.
For tomatoes you have a very large amount of water to deal with. With wet vegetables like tomatoes you first want to get a basic idea of where the seeds are.
Tomato seeds for example are housed within chambers inside of the tomato.
You first need to cut your tomato in half to access the seeds. A quick way to harvest them is to give the tomato halves a gentle squeeze into a collection dish. You then need to clean your seeds thoroughly and get ready for the next step.
With other wet vegetables like cucumber you may have a little bit harder time.
When saving cucumber seeds you need to access the interior of your cucumber. Once you have split it open you can use a spoon to help scoop out the seeds. After you have removed them, again wash and get ready for step two.
For vegetables like squash and pumpkin the process is a bit different. When saving squash seeds and saving pumpkin seeds you have much less flesh to deal with and a much larger abundance of seeds. Much like a cucumber, once you have accessed the interior of a squash you can use a spoon to hollow out the seed cavity to harvest your seeds.
With pumpkin, anyone that has ever carved a pumpkin knows that pumpkin seeds come in the hundreds and that they are encased in a mucous like substance that is known as a membrane.
When removing pumpkin seeds you can simply chop off the top and remove the seeds with a scoop. Then, wash thoroughly and get ready for the next step.
Harvesting pepper seeds is much easier than any other vegetable.
Pepper seeds grow in bunches in the center of the pepper attached to the stem. If you cut out the stem and essentially core your pepper, you will have all your seeds in one place.
Washing may seem like a simple step but you need to be careful and follow a few simple rules.
When saving pumpkin seeds and saving squash seeds, you need to make sure you remove as much of the membrane as possible. Though a little bit is not going to ruin your seeds, the more organic matter you have left on your seeds the more chances there are for rot and mold to set in.
When saving tomato seeds and saving heirloom tomato seeds you face an even tougher cleaning process.
To remove all the pulp you will need to rinse your seeds several times and make sure you have removed all that you possibly can.
With cucumber seed you can generally pop them out of the flesh and give them a quick rinse. With pepper seeds you will likely not need to wash them at all.
There are a few different ways that you can dry seeds and each is as effective as another.
The first method is the good old air dry. This is the longest but also the safest way to dry your seeds. To air dry you need to first have your seeds well washed. When saving seeds washing them helps to prevent mold.
After you have washed your seeds you can pat them as dry as possible to help start the drying process. After you have patted them dry you should use something like butcher paper or wax paper to lay them out.
While a paper towel may seem like a good option, paper towels can soak up liquid and keep it next to the seed causing premature molding. Butcher paper and wax paper will keep your seeds from drying to the surface you are using and will help to wick away moisture.
Make sure your seeds are laid out in an even, single layer.
It is important that your seeds not be on top of one another because this slows the drying time and again helps to encourage mold.
After you have laid out your seeds choose a good location that is dry, free of humidity, and in the sun if you can manage it. Placing seeds in the sun will help to speed up the process. After that all you have to do is wait.
Depending on the seeds and where you have chosen to leave them, the process can take as little as two or three days to as long as a week.
Larger seeds take longer to dry while smaller seeds are much faster.
Another type of drying is assisted drying. This means using something like a dehydrator or an oven to help speed up the process.
While these are viable options, they do also run the risk of damaging the seed beyond the point of use. With a dehydrator you want to choose the lowest possible setting and allow your seeds plenty of room and time to dry.
With something like saving bean seeds for example you want to make sure you do not dry them out too quickly or they will become unusable.
With tomato seed saving, this method may not be ideal as tomato seeds are very delicate and small. This method works best with larger seeds like pumpkin, squash, and even saving bean seeds.
The oven is the second assisted method you may want to use. Again, you want to be sure you are using the lowest possible setting to insure the seeds are dried and not cooked. Once a seed has been cooked it is very likely that it will never germinate.
When using an oven you want to set it on the lowest possible setting and allow for the longest drying time possible. It may also be beneficial to leave the oven door cracked a bit to allow moisture to escape and maintaining a very dry atmosphere.
Tomato seed saving is a bit easier when you use the air dry method than the oven or dehydrator method. When saving pepper seeds you will likely not need to put them in either a dehydrator or an oven.
If you do not feel comfortable using either of these methods, there are seed driers that you can buy but they are a bit pricy because they are so specialized.
After you have dried your seeds you need to consider how to store them. There are a few different ways that you can store your seeds. There are more receptacles than you might ever imagine for saving your seeds and knowing a bit about each is the best way to get your seeds safely tucked away.
The first storage method is of course Ziploc or zip top bags. These are only useful if the seeds are all the way dried. These will keep out moisture, keep seeds together, and they are easy to fold up and tuck away in a bag or a drawer. They also hold a large number of seeds, come in a wide range of sizes, and are relatively cheap.
This type of storage is only for temporary storage as it can trap moisture in with the seeds causing them to rot.
Another storage method is of course air tight containers. These can be things like food storage containers, air tight crafting containers, or even those that have been specially designed for seeds.
These are great if you can find them but they may also help to trap in moisture and cause premature molding and rot.
The absolute best way to keep your seeds is in a good old paper envelope.
An envelope, like the ones that seeds are sold in at the store, allow for air to pass in and out which means that moisture will also pass in and out and not become trapped. These paper envelopes are cheap, easy to store, come in a ton of sizes, and are great when it comes to packing them around.
Paper envelopes make for the best storage and they are easy to come by. Though seed drying and saving may seem like a long arduous process, the reward is great.
Doing something as simple as saving seeds from tomatoes to use later can be incredibly fun, incredibly rewarding, and may just save your life one day.
Following these steps can make your seed venture easier, faster, and a whole lot smoother. Though trial and error is the best way to learn, it also helps to have a bit of information on your side to make things that much easier.