How to - Seeds
10 seed-saving tips
We asked a few experts for their secrets to gathering seeds for next year's plants
5. Understand—and supervise—pollination
Many plants need wind or insects for pollination, which means pollen from different varieties of plants can become mixed, creating seed with different traits than the parent plant. “To save seeds that come true from your cross-pollinated vegetables, you must control pollination of the flowers,” says June. She suggests floating row covers to keep insects out, if you are willing to hand pollinate the covered plants.
Laura Watt, owner of Ontario seed producer Cubit’s Organics, is a big believer in ensuring adequate space between plants. “Each type of plant has its own space requirements depending on how the plant is pollinated,” she says.
6. Let the plant do most of the work
“Non-fruiting veggies, such as radishes or lettuce are usually allowed to ‘bolt’,” says Sheryl. “The seed is then allowed to mature and dry on the plant.” Though appearance varies from plant to plant, our experts agree that the best indicator of ripe seeds is colour: turning from green to yellow to brown or black.
Anna sometimes uses mesh bags to keep seeds from dropping before she can collect them.
“You can clip or trim the seed heads off and store them in a paper bag to ensure they've dried out completely,” says Laura.
June recommends spreading them on screens for a couple of weeks, and separating the seeds from any stems, pods or fruit before storing.
7. Fruiting veggies have their seeds inside
For squash, peppers and the like, choose a fruit that is fully ripe and cut it open, says Sheryl. Choose whole seeds that have “some sort of plumpness to them. They’re usually full looking—not flat.” This indicates a fully developed embryo. Rinse them well and allow them to dry as you do with other seeds.