Getting started with seed saving

Saving seeds from your crops will not only save you money, but can also produce crops that are better suited to local conditions. Seed saving is fairly simple, but there are a few important things to know before you start.

Firstly, you should avoid saving seeds from ‘F1 hybrid’ varieties (this includes most fruit and veg from supermarkets), as their seeds are likely to be sterile or produce plants that are different from the parent plant. Seed packets should indicate whether seeds are hybrids. Open-pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties can be purchased from Real Seeds.

Some seeds are easier to save than others. Lettuce, tomatoes, peas and beans are a great place to start if you’re a beginner.

For each vegetable you want to save seed from, you should ask yourself these questions

Crossing:

  • Will these plants cross-pollinate with any others? (This means the plants produced could be very different from the parent plant)
  • Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? (Usually bad)
  • How does this cross-pollination happen? (Wind? Insects?)
  • What can I do to control this? Do I need to do anything?

Population:

  • Do I need a minimum number of plants to get healthy seeds? (e.g. do plants breed with other plants?)
  • Or do the plants live on their own and self-pollinate? (so I can save seed from just a few?)
  • Have I chosen the best plants for seed?

Seed extraction and drying:

  • Do I need to do anything special to the seed ?
  • Is my seed well dried and well labelled?

Want more information?

This guide by Real Seeds explains how to save seeds from a variety of plants. You can find more guidance at seedsavers.org.

Recommended documentary ‘Seed: The Untold Story’

In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared and a handful of chemical companies control the majority of the world’s seeds. Seed: The Untold Story follows passionate seed keepers protecting our 12,000 year-old food legacy. We recently watched it and would highly recommend it. Watch the trailer.

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