Thursday, December 01, 2016

8 Seed Saving Tips

My floating garden.
Growing flowers and vegetables is a good way to enhance your environment, and control the sustainability and quality of the foods you eat. It can be very economical, but not free. Everything costs from seed to harvest.

Cliffside potato patch built with compost.
To decrease my costs and dependence on commercial products, I’ve started making some of my own gardening supplies. The first was creating compost from my clippings and kitchen waste. Living in a place without land and minimal soil that one practice has saved me lots of money and energy in hauling heavy bags up the lake.

8 Seed Saving Tips

The next thing I tried was saving seeds. Some efforts have been successful, some not so much. Here are some of my hits and misses.

Snow peas drying on the plants.
Snow Peas

This was my first and most successful experience. I’ve annually saved seeds from my plants for over five years without any deterioration in the quantity or quality of the successive crops.

Beans dried in the pods.
Scarlet Runner Beans

Saving these seeds can have two benefits. You can replant the following year or store them for consumption in soups and chilies. I only planted my saved seeds once and did have a meager crop the following year. Now I only save them for eating.

Rains didn't let the beans dry on the plants.
Kentucky Wonder Beans

This is the first year I’ve grown this type of pole bean. I’ll have to post an update next year about whether it is a hit or miss. The dried beans are pretty small, not as good for storing and eating as the Scarlet Runner Beans.

Cleaning tomato seeds for drying.
Tomato Seeds

Two years ago I processed and dried tomato seeds to save. I planted them in small pots for sprouting the following year without any success. Letting tomatoes self seed and sprout the next spring has been more successful. I let them get several inches tall and select the best to transplant to my new tomato patch.

Millions of seeds to save.
Scarlet Nantes Carrots

One year I couldn’t pull my carrots so they remained in the ground for two years. At that point they went to flower and seed. I saved the seeds and tried to plant some the next spring. It was not successful and I hate to waste time limited garden space to an unknown.

Seed potatoes ready to grow in a barrel.
Seed Potatoes

Technically not seeds, but the eyes of sprouted potatoes are all you need to start a new crops. I’ve been doing this for so many years that I don’t know how long it’s been since I purchased seed potatoes. I like to grow Yukon Gold potatoes. They keep well in winter storage. I dig them in fall when the plants die, eat them until about February, then let them sprout for planting in April. Next to Snow Peas, this is my greatest success.

Marigolds in pots on my deck.

Deadheading Marigolds is a constant process from spring to fall. I save heads and let them dry then pull off the petals once dry. Each flower produces a large amount of new seeds. During the summer, I just push drying heads into the soil to fill in spaces or plant new garden areas. With plenty of moisture they are easy to grow. I do buy few flower sets in April to give me some early colour in my deck planters. Marigolds help deter garden pests. I also use dried crumbled flower heads (including the petals) to sprinkle over plants in the garden when I have an aphid problem.

Pretty flowers and free soothing tea.

Probably the hardest part of saving Chamomile seeds is keeping them from reseeding on their own. Each tiny daisy-like flower produces a prodigious amount of seed. I love Chamomile tea so started growing some three years ago. Since then I’ve been regrowing it in the same pots and around the bases of larger plants. There’s plenty from several pots for some tea and garden seed.

What are some of your seed saving successes and misses? -- Margy


  1. I've had a lot more success with flower seed than veggies. I should have stopped picking beans earlier so I had mature ones to dry out-lesson for next year. I will try growing chamomile next year as I also drink a lot of chamomile tea.

    1. Chamomile is really easy to grow, but a little hard to control. Each flower makes hundreds of viable seeds. - Margy

  2. Someone posted on Facebook last spring about slicing tomatoes. Put three slices on soil, space them apart and put soil on top. I have yet try it out but will do in the spring and see how it works out. I have saved seeds from previous years to not much success.

    1. That's almost like the self seeding that I've been getting. I just dig the tomatoes into the soil and let nature take its course. - Margy

  3. Interesting subject, Margy. I save some seeds and not others. Some I just let self sow in the garden. I have had tomato plants start on their own but did not try to replant them. Maybe i should. I guess it depends on size of seed and storing them too. Good article

    1. Thanks. I've had grape tomatoes reseed themselves for two years in a row. The trouble is you can't tell from the seedlings which kind they are. Or at least I can't. - Margy

  4. I save seeds and have lots of success with scarlet runner beans, marigolds, cosmos, and others. I do let some tomatoes self seed and get some nice plants the following year.

  5. You are amazing! I so admire what you do!


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy