How to Save Seeds from Your Garden (workshop recap)

I’m a seed-saving convert! I’ve always shied away from seed saving — it seems like so much work! But last Saturday, when I volunteered at a seed-saving workshop at The Ecology Center (TEC) in San Juan Capistrano, I discovered that it’s actually fairly easy. And in the long run, it’s much better than planting your veggies from seedlings (which is what I usually do). Let me share what I learned:

Why should we save seeds from our garden?

  1. To grow plants better adapted to our environment and thus more likely to thrive.
  2. To reproduce the plants we enjoy most (our prettiest flowers and tastiest tomatoes).
  3. To have more control over our food supply.
  4. To save money.
  5. To protect genetic diversity, cultural heritage, and our right to save seeds.
  6. To feel pride in doing it ourselves.

At the workshop, we took seeds from two varieties of squash, Roma tomatoes, and fennel that had just been harvested from TEC’s garden. If you’re new at saving seeds, squash is the easiest one to start with. I’ll make it even easier by providing instructions from TEC’s handout!

How to Save Squash Seeds:

MATERIALS:

A mature winter squash (like butternut),  sharp knife, cutting board, metal spoon, strainer, bucket with water, dishtowel or screen, paper envelope/bag or glass jar, pen and label.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut the squash open and scoop out a handful of seeds into a strainer.
  2. Remove any strings or loose debris from the seeds. Run under water or rinse in a bucket, rubbing against the mesh of a strainer to loosen additional debris until the seeds are clean. Drain.
  3. Cure the seeds by laying them out in a single layer on a towel or screen to dry.
  4. Store this way in a place that is dry and out of direct sunlight.
  5. Once thoroughly dried in 3 to 7 days, store them in a paper envelope/bag or glass jar with a lid in a cool, dry, dark place with the rest of your seed supply.
  6. Make sure to label your seeds with the variety, the date you stored them, and how long they will last. Squash seeds can be stored for up to six years.

Resources:

  • Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth
  • The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production by John Navazio
  • The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetable, Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, Trees, and Shrubs by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough
  • Saving Seeds: The Gardener’s Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds by Marc Rogers

Thanks to The Ecology Center and Camille Compean for a terrific workshop!

Questions or suggestions for seed saving? Reply to this post and we’ll continue the conversation…

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