Saving Seeds

The secret to a never-ending garden.

Photo by Jen Fariello

Monticello’s head vegetable gardener, Pat Brodowski, harvests seeds to share from Hinkelhatz peppers.

In one of the odder moments of the coronavirus pandemic this spring, so many people became interested in planting gardens that stores temporarily ran out of seed packets. However, there’s a simple way to make sure you’ll always have seeds. Assuming you planted heirloom varieties, you can harvest the seeds as well as the fruits, vegetables, and flowers to assure yourself a never-ending supply of your garden favorites.

For peas, beans, peppers, and other pod or flowering plants, use the dry method. Leave the pod or head on the plant until it’s fully mature (the stem will be dry below the pod). Harvest them, spread them inside to dry, and then crush the pods and pick out the seeds. Store the seeds in a closed container.

For fruiting plants like tomatoes, squash, berries, and melons, use the wet method. Mash the ripe fruit, add a little water, and let it sit for a couple of days. Then, add more water; the good seeds should sink. Strain them out, then spread them out to dry for several weeks before storing in a closed container.

Note that the seeds of store-bought produce may not sprout or grow true to the parent plant—or form fruit—if they do. However, if a grocery potato sprouts, cut it up and plant the eyes; it will grow plenty of new potatoes. 

Learn more at SouthernExposure.com or SavingOurSeeds.org.

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