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August 19, 2015

Seed Saving

I've admitted several times that I am a struggling gardener - by no means am I an expert. When we lived in Michigan before moving here to Oklahoma, we had lovely black soil and abundant summer rainfall, and my garden grew very well. Now we have very poor clay soil plus summer heat and drought, not to mention the ever-growing bermuda grass in the garden which chokes out everything in its path.

But I am ever hopeful. Gardeners are optimists, aren't we?

"Never give up" is the homesteader's creed. I plant heirloom seeds each spring and hope for the best. Seed saving is a relatively new thing for me, but definitely something I want to master, just like gardening itself.

Saving radish seed is a good beginner project - just let a plant flower and collect the seeds, storing them in a cool, dry place. Basil seeds are very easy. I've also saved tomato and pepper seeds with some success, and have tried the occasional "this was a good grocery-store cantaloupe; I should try saving some of the seeds." This year I'm trying even harder, so I've been looking for advice.

Sensible Garden's post The Art of Saving Seeds shared reasons why we should save our seeds, which was very good food for thought. There are directions for saving many types of vegetable seeds, but also some good advice about improving our plants and about plant diversity.

Gardening Jones has basic instructions for saving tomato seeds. Although I know that woman cannot live on tomatoes alone, they are certainly the star of my garden and the summer treat I look forward to all winter long.

Saving Vegetable Garden Seeds from O-Garden includes the nuts and bolts of drying seeds and storing them so they will be viable next year (and hopefully longer than that).

This post from Garden Chick has printable seed packets in which to store your seeds. Don't forget to label your packets well with the seed variety and the year.

Preparedness Mama wrote about how to save seeds that will last up to ten years in a "seed vault". There is excellent advice here about why we want our seeds to last such a long time.

My last suggested resource is a comprehensive collection of basic seed saving directions from the International Seed Saving Institute. Plants are divided into three groups: those that are easy for beginners to save, for experienced seed savers, and for experts.

Oh, my house cats think I do a good job of saving catnip seed too. Unfortunately the seeds didn't make it through the winter: the cats destroyed the envelope so that they could get to that absolutely irresistible plant material inside. I think they ate the seeds.

This year I will also try overwintering a tomato plant again. I've had about 50% success with this method, some years it works great and other years my cuttings die soon after I bring them indoors. I still wonder if the tap water I use is partly to blame.

Plus I'll be planting some tomato cuttings in pots that will have to compete for space with the potted herbs on my two sunny windowsills. In the past I've been overwintering them in jars of water as described in the perennial tomato post, but this year I will be doing both. If I can keep them alive, I get a big jump on spring.

I'll still be saving seed too - it's the most dependable way to ensure I'll have the wide variety of tomatoes I like to grow.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. If you can use filtered water on your tomatoes, they might do better. Even though we filter our drinking water, we also leave it sitting out in a pitcher after filtering to allow the chlorine to dissipate. Might be worth a try. Thank you for all of the resources.


  2. Fern, I don't know why I didn't think to use our filtered water to water the tomato plants. I was letting tap water set so the chlorine would dissipate, but now I'll use the filtered water and let it set first too. Thank you - here's hoping it'll work!

  3. I have tried just putting them in water but they just rot. I use a good starter mix and just stick the plants in that and keep it watered. Seems to work for me. I use all heirloom open pollinated seed to plant with and then save seed from that. Then I do buy or trade a packet or 2 every year to add to my supply to keep my genetics strong. My storage? I have tied the freezer method and have never done well with it. I get coin packets from staples, put my dried seeds in them and since I work at a liquor store part time I use Crown Royal boxes that are sectioned and put the boxes in the closet.( Nicest, sturdiest boxes I have ever seen) Works like a charm. yes I know I'm weird! :)

  4. Thank you for the information, commiseration, tips & links! 'Pinned!'

  5. I don't think you're weird at all, Robin - this is what I want to know! Thank you for sharing the info.

  6. Carla - lol - you're welcome! Thank you for the Pin.

  7. Some of the plants that have done the best in our garden have come from seeds saved like this! Thanks for such a great post!

  8. Lisa, those seeds have adapted to your micro-climate and to your soil, and should get even better over time. How long have you been saving seeds?

  9. Seed saving is so much fun, my grandma taught me how to do this starting with simple marigold seeds and the lessons just grew from there. At one point I had my own little seed business. Brings back neat memories. You'll get there seed saving is more time consuming than anything. It's a manor of saving the best of the best. Enjoy!

    Carole @ Garden Up Green

  10. Carole, that's a blessing to have had your grandma teach you how to save seeds. I admit that marigold seeds are easy. This is something I really want to learn and be good at.

  11. I mainly save tomatoes and beans. Sometimes a favorite heirloom tomato had an accidental cross and the new plant has tomatoes that are unrecognizable. Penalty for not bagging blossoms. Sometimes it is a great disappointment but once I got a lovely new and original variety. Cool links!

  12. Thank you, Hannah. How neat that you once had a good cross. Did you keep it going? Or is that something that might not breed true?

  13. I just found your blog through the blog hop and had to say thank you! I am a novice gardener and was wondering if I should bother to try saving seeds, so now I at least know where to start. Great links. :)

  14. You're welcome, Michelle. I'm glad they were helpful.

  15. Seed saving is its own reward. What could be better than ensuring that you'll always have those crops that produce and taste best?

    It's always good to see you on The Maple Hill Hop!

  16. Yes, Daisy, exactly!

  17. Great post about seed saving...but naughty cats! lol I bet they were happy though.

    Thanks again for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you back this week!


  18. Yes, Lisa, those cats were oblivious to anything else for quite some time. LOL.

  19. There are so many helpful hints and links in this post, Kathi! It's a great resource for gardeners. It is so important to save seeds and keep the old plants going. Heirloom seeds are such a treasure. Pinned and shared. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul hop.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing, April.

  21. Very nice tips, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.


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