Seed saving can not only increase longevity of your garden and save you money, but it is also a very rewarding experience.
When first thinking about saving your seeds it can seem a bit overwhelming. Questions like how to do it right and what seeds will be good to save, as well as what the next generation of plants will be like can cross your mind. My advice is don’t stress! Seed saving doesn’t have to be hard or complex. It can also really be beneficial to your garden.
To address the first question, saving seeds can be very easy. First off it’s important to know that for some plants you cannot save seeds from a fruit that you harvest at edible size. For things like peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, okra, and summer squash (that includes zucchini) have to be left to grow to full size and maturity. Beans and peas are the same way. Plants like tomatoes have seeds that are ready to save with any fruit you pick.
I don’t recommend leaving many fruit to reach this full mature size because you will not only get a lot of seeds from one fruit, but you want to be able to enjoy as much produce as you can! However if you miss an okra, or a cucumber, or a zucchini and it gets to be a little too big to be much good for eating just let it go. However, do not let too many go, especially early in the season, because your plants will think their job is done and slow down the production of other fruits, if not stop production all together!
On the topic of which seeds are good to save, beans and peas are probably one of the easiest. All that is needed is to just let the pods go until they dry out or the seeds are visibly mature size. The seeds will be hard and the pod will be very full.
Another plant that has seeds that are easy to save is tomatoes. Once you pick the mature fruit all that you have to do is cut out the seeds and let them soak in a small cup or dish of water for a few days to break down the jelly like casing. Just be sure to swirl the dish or cup every so often. Once they have soaked just rinse them and lay them out on a plate to dry for an additional few days. Once fully dried just put n an envelope or even a plastic bag.
If you want to save cucumber seeds you’ll have to let the cucumber grow to mature size. This means the cucumber will be fully yellow and the skin will be a lot thicker than when it is typically picked for consumption. With cucumber seeds you will also have to soak them in water for a few days before rinsing and drying.
When it comes to saving seeds there is no real way to tell exactly what the next generation of plants will look like. If you grow multiple varieties of the same plant you will likely experience crossing of genetics. Plants that this is very common in is tomatoes and squash. Unless you grow exclusively one type of these plants, the next generation will likely look like a mixture of multiple varieties.
My mom grew Yellow Pear tomatoes last year and they got cross pollinated with her Principe Bourgeois tomatoes so when I grew plants from those seeds I got tomatoes with the shape of the Yellow Pears, but the coloration of the Principe Bourgeois. While your plants won’t be true to any established variety they can still be great producers! I think every gardener loves being able to harvest produce and, even though they may be different, it’s still food.
Saving your own seeds also increases the longevity of your garden. Every generation that you grow the seeds you’ve saved the more adapted to your climate and location your plants will be. By saving your own seed you can choose the seeds you want to grow based on which plants or fruit you determine are the best.
Saving your own seed also can save you a lot of money. Saving seeds from produce you’ve grown is free and you’ll get much more seeds than you’d get in a traditional seed packet. From one tomato I can get the same amount of seeds as I’d get in an entire seed packet. This saves me money which I definitely appreciate. It also makes it much easier to expand my garden without incurring much more cost.
Overall while seed saving takes a bit of time input, it is very well worth that time and effort. You can curb costs, improve genetics, and expand your garden easier with saving seeds. Seed saving shouldn’t be a scary process. Try it out, even it’s just a little bit of seeds. I can almost guarantee you’ll be glad you did!