As this year’s garden season is winding to a close, you need to be thinking about next year’s garden. That’s right – as you reap the last of your harvest from this summer, it’s time to start planning for what you’d like to grow next gardening season. One of the ways you can do that is to store your seeds.
Storing seeds isn’t just a good way to plan ahead, it also saves money and time. When planting day comes around next spring, you don’t have to worry about the cost of ordering more seeds, or waiting on them to come in because you’ll already have a stash ready to go! Also, by using seeds from this year’s harvest, you know the quality of plants and produce that you can hope to get again. You can even start your own “seed bank” to share with family and friends!
Another benefit to saving and storing seeds is that you would be prepared for a garden (or even an indoor greenhouse) if you were in a survival situation where you had to grow food for your family or even for a larger group. Seeds could also be a valuable bartering tool!
If you’re going to store seeds, you might want to start with just one type and add in more each year. This will help you to know how different seed types react to the drying and storage process, and if some will adapt to this better than others. If you are interested in storing several varieties, have friends or family save a type as well.
To store seeds, first, you’ll have to decide which plants to take them from. Obviously, you want to pick plants that are thriving and flourishing – not ones that are droopy, don’t produce well, or just look weak in general. You can see if your plant seeds are worth saving by doing a germination test. Put a few seeds on a damp paper towel, and lay it a warm spot to let them germinate. Once you see what percentage of the seeds sprout, it will give you a good way to judge how many seeds to put in the ground to get a good yield.
Once you have decided which seeds to save, you will need to dry them out completely. For many kinds of plants, this is pretty easy. Just dry out the seed pods and then you remove the seeds. For those kinds of plants that have smaller seeds that might be harder to get out or where the seeds are surrounded in a gel (think cucumbers and tomatoes), the drying and removal process is a little more tedious. You’ll have to soak them in water for several days in the fridge, until the seeds come out of the gel. Some will sink and some will float. You can dry, save, and store the ones that sink.
Experts also advise those who are new to seed saving to only save the seeds from self pollinating plants initially. Saving and storing cross-pollinating plants can be a little more intensive. If you do store cross-pollinating seeds, you need to keep them stored by themselves, so there’s no risk of them pollinating with the other seeds. If you order seeds from a retailer, you will want to purchase non-GMO heirloom seeds. These are seeds that have not been genetically modified. GMO seeds are great for large growers and farm operations, but not so much the general consumer, as they are getting genetically altered seeds and, eventually, a genetically altered product, which can make the seeds very hard to save for storage.
You need to bear in mind that by storing them in a cool spot, and taking proper care of them, your seeds can last for several years. This won’t just benefit next summer’s garden, but even years after that. Seed saving is growing in popularity as more and more people are planting their own gardens, and realizing the value of self sustainability.
Do you save and store your seeds? Do you have any tips for seed storage?