Saving seeds from one year to plant the next.

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Veg Grow Guide Blog - February 2021

Saving seeds from one year to plant the next.

So which seeds are best and which ones do I avoid? , Jan 21, 2021
Seeds fermenting in a jar

Growing your own vegetable from seed is one of the most enjoyable aspects of gardening. Using seeds you have saved from last year's harvest will no only give you a great sense of satisfaction but it can also save you money. You will also be able to grow your favourite varieties year-on-year.

So which seeds are best and which ones do I avoid?

The most obvious seeds to save include tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas. The plants have flowers which are self-pollinating so will grow true to type the following year. You will need to allow the seeds in all plants to fully ripen and this will take some patience. This will avoid issues such as poor germination when you attempt to grow them.

If you have grown any beans such as runner beans you will usually grow more than you can eat. Although beans such as runners store well in the freezer why not save the seeds. Allow the beans and peas ripen on the vine until they start to turn brown, and the seeds may rattle in the pods. Pod them and let them dry at room temperature for at least a week. You can plant them in the normal way the following year. Dried beans or peas are also edible, so you have the best of both worlds.

Tomatoes and peppers seeds can also be saved well for growing next year. Saving the seeds can be very fiddly but it well worth the effort, you will be richly rewarded. With peppers, just scoop out the seeds and spread them out to dry.

For tomatoes, wait unit they are fully ripe. Scoop out the pulp and place in a glass or jar of water until the seeds drop to the bottom. This may take a few days as you need to let the mixture ferment, which helps separate the seeds from the pulp. Pour off the water and spread the seeds on a towel or kitchen roll until dry. If you are trying to grow the largest tomatoes with a particular variety, choose the biggest ones to harvest the seeds. Hopefully the seeds with pick up this trait giving you larger tomatoes next year.

Storing seeds - Store your seeds in paper envelopes in a dry and cool place, or in tightly sealed glass containers. If you are using glass containers you may need to add something like silica gel to take up any moisture and stop seeds from germinating or rotting in the container. This is available in sachet or powder form from a variety of suppliers. Don't forget to label them well, especially if you are growing different varieties.

If you have grown any varieties which are F1 hybrids these are not desirable seeds to save and grow. F1 hybrids are especially bred (cross-pollinated) from two different varieties to have different traits from each original source plant. These can include traits such as disease resistance and larger fruit but the seeds from saved seeds may not grow true or have lower germination rates the following year.

Squashes, pumpkins, courgettes , cucumbers and sweetcorn can also have mixed results. These plants have separate male and female flowers and can cross-pollinate across different varieties. Saved seeds may not grow into exactly the same plant you had last year, in terms of shape, colour or taste. If you only grow one variety of squashes, or if you would like to experiment you can save the seeds by separating the pulp and drying the seeds. Melon seed can be done in the same way. You can try and keep your variety 'true' by hand-pollinating.

Lettuces - if you are growing too many lettuces it may be worth letting one or two 'go to seed' although avoid lettuces which have bolted. You can shake the seed daily into a container for a few days. Lettuces produce lots of seeds so this may be a good way of keeping a favoured variety.

Brassicas - cabbages, cauliflower, sprouts and kales plants can go to flower and the seeds from these can be saved. They will form yellow flowers which fade with time. At this stage the flower head can be removed and left to mature. The seed pods can be opened to save the seeds. Brassicas can cross-pollinate so you should be careful and maybe grow just one variety to save seeds.

Beetroots, chard and carrots are biennials which will flower in the second growing season. This can be complicated so these are maybe not the most popular seeds to save. They are left to flower in the second year and the flower heads can be cut off when they start to turn brown. You can separate the seed from the dried flowers by sieving them.

Herbs such as coriander and dill also form seeds heads which can be removed and stored although you will need to time this well to avoid the seeds dropping to the ground naturally.

Onion seeds can be done in the same way as the herbs above - just cut the head off and shake it inside a bag to loosen the seeds.

Overall saving seeds is a good way of experimenting and saving the cost of seeds. Bear in mind to use the best plants for seed saving and store them properly - not forgetting to label all the seeds you save.

About Me

Joe Drozd

Hi my name is Joe and this is my blog showing a number of hints on growing on the allotment, updates on our allotment and more...

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