How to - Seeds

10 seed-saving tips

April Demes
Photography by
April Demes

We asked a few experts for their secrets to gathering seeds for next year's plants

Want to grow the same gorgeous blooms as your neighbour? Or plant the exact same type of juicy heirloom tomato next year? We’ve asked some experts to share their best seed-saving tips to help you propagate your own plants.

1. Recognize that all seeds are not created equal
“Most seeds from hybrid plants have the potential to produce plants with unpredictable traits, so it's a gamble to save seeds from them,” says June Flanagan, botanist and author of Native Plants for Prairie Gardens and Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens. “Only a small percentage will produce what you expect.” Sometimes the seed from hybrids could even be sterile.

2. Start with the basics
“The easiest plants to save seeds from are self-pollinated, open-pollinated varieties of lettuce and beans,” says June. “Simply let them mature on the plant. You don't need to worry about cross-pollination and you will get predictable results. And, there are so many varieties to choose from!”

3. Choose what to grow next year during the growing season
Alberta horticulturist Anna McLaren likes to mark plants that are displaying traits she wants, such as early flowering, frost or wind resistance, good colour, large fruit, etc., throughout the summer. Then, she can be sure to collect seed from that particular plant in the fall. You can use stakes or coloured ribbon tied loosely around the stems to mark your choices.

4. Look for open-pollinated (aka OP) heritage veggies
“Open-pollinated plants produce genetically true seed. OP plants are adaptable to climate and regional growing conditions and are the best candidates for saving,” explains Calgary writer and master-gardener-in-training Sheryl Normandeau.

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