How to Save and Store Your Heirloom Seeds
Saving your heirloom, open-pollinated seeds is an important step in creating a long-lasting survival garden. Additionally, saving seeds will reduce the cost of keeping your garden going, and preserves unique varieties of plants, genetic diversity, and great flavor.
IMPORTANT TIP: Seeds must be 'open-pollinated' in order to be saved from year to year and predictably produce the same vegetable. Be sure to buy 'open-pollinated' seeds for long-term storage.
How to Save Your Heirloom Seeds
The process for saving seeds is dependent upon the type of plant. First, it is important to know when the seeds are mature in the plant you are harvesting from. Some seeds do not mature until after the plant becomes inedible. Therefore, you may need to leave some of your crop out in the garden until it is past its prime, rather than eat it.
Garden crops are classified as either dry or wet fruited and the process for saving seeds differs depending upon which category your plant falls under:
Dry Fruited Crops
If you are saving seeds from dry fruited plants like grains, lettuce, and beans, simply remove the crops from the plant once the seeds are hard and dry. Then, dry and clean the seedpods as needed.
Wet Fruited Crops
If you are saving seeds from wet fruited crops, you must pick your crops when the seeds are mature, which is usually long after the time in which you would eat them. Then, either crush or cut open the crops, extract the seeds, clean them in a bowl of water, gently separate the seeds from the pulp, and allow them to dry completely.
How to Store Your Heirloom Seeds
Once you’ve harvested your heirloom seeds, it is important to store them properly so that they will last for a long time. Properly stored seeds will last at least one year; however, some seeds can last up to five years. Tomato and bean seeds will generally last for several years in proper conditions. However, onion and carrot seeds are known for their short shelf life.
After your seeds have completely dried, place them in airtight containers. Don’t forget to label the containers with the type of seed, variety, date harvested, how many plants you harvested from, and any other useful notes about the plant(s) you harvested from. Then, choose a safe place to store your seeds. It should be cool, dark, and dry. A basement, refrigerator, freezer, or even a closet in a cool part of your home will work.
Tips for Saving and Storing Your Heirloom Seeds
- Use seeds from healthy, robust plants.
- Remove diseased plants from your garden to avoid collecting contaminated seeds.
- Pick seeds from several plants to preserve as many genetic traits in the variety as possible.
- Spread out similar plants in your garden to avoid cross-pollination. Check out this minimum distance chart from the USDA.
- Do not dry out seeds on porous surfaces like paper because they will stick.
Are you ready to get out in the garden? Head on over to the Fenix Prep shop to find everything you need!