Tips on saving seed
by Maria Page
The plant you intend collecting seed from needs to be organic/ heirloom.
Source your plants carefully. If it doesn’t specify being organic, it is likely to be hybrid. Don’t collect seed from hybrids as they will not grow true to type.
Select healthy plants in the garden and label them “For seed collection” and leave them alone, don’t pick from them!
Research the plant pollination of the plant. If it self-pollinates then it’s easy! But if it can cross-pollinate with a similar plant of the same family, then ensure you only grow one variety eg: cucurbits like pumpkin and butternut.
Examples of plants that you can happily collect seed from now:
basil, beans, coriander, lettuce, marigold
nasturtium, peas, tomato, pigeon pea
WHEN TO HARVEST AND HOW TO DRY SEEDS
All of the above except tomato, use the “dry method”. They need to be left on the plant until they are dry/brown. Pick them and place in a paper bag, hang up or place on a flyscreen to dry.
With lettuce, collect seeds from the last plants to bolt. This will then be a trait of the next crop; it will produce lettuce plants for longer in the season!
With beans, leave the first beans to mature, on the vine. Leave them for collection. This will ensure the next crop will produce beans early!
Tomato needs to be picked when fully ripe. Use the “wet method”. As they are susceptible to disease, the recommended method of saving seed is to ferment them. Place the seed pulp in a glass or jar and add a little water. Leave for a few days on the kitchen benchtop at room temperature until it ferments and froths. The process will dissolve the pulp around the seed and they will be easy to rinse off using a sieve and running water. Place the clean seeds on a plate and leave in a suitable place to dry.
PACKAGING AND LABELING
They need to absolutely dry, dry, dry before packaging. They also need to be cleaned from the husk or pods. Place in small plastic ziplock bags (this prevents moisture getting back in). Or use paper bags but they need to be placed in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.
Label them with as much information as possible, e.g:
- Plant name
- Date harvested
- Where collected
- Who collected
- When to plant/harvest
- Growing conditions
Observe your garden now and see what seeds you can save!
Collect them and share with friends and neighbours. Any excess is welcome to be added to the Permaculture Noosa Seed Bank so it can be passed on to more keen gardeners!
FOR MORE INFORMATION on Seed Saving, these books/manuals are available at the monthly meetings.
The Seed Savers’ Handbook By Michel & Jude Fanton
Seed Savers’ Manual by Elizabeth Fekonia