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Using Seed Saving Towels Instead of Paper Towels

 
master gardener
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Sometimes seed saving can get messy, like when saving cucumber, squash, or tomato seeds. I've been using paper towels for saving seeds like this, but the paper towels get very wet and messy, and it's easy to go through a lot of them quickly. I was wondering if there may be a easier and more sustainable way?

I'm interested in using towels for plants like these, to make the job easier, cheaper, and reduce waste.

I figure that the towel will absorb more of the wet material and help to separate the goo from the seeds more easily.

I was thinking about using one towel to clean the seeds and then having another clean and dry towell to lay the cleaned and washed seeds on, to dry.

After the seeds are ready the towels can then be washed with water and maybe some natural soap if needed, dried, and are ready to be used again to save more seeds!

Is anyone else using towels to save seeds or going to try it out!?
 
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I use smooth cotton dish towels to dry seeds on. Works a treat.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I use smooth cotton dish towels to dry seeds on. Works a treat.



me too!  sometimes a piece of sheeting, or a 'kitchen rag'  (cut up t-shirts)almost any absorbent smooth cloth.  I have some flat baskets to then transfer large amounts to once the cloth has absorbed most of the moisture....small amounts finish drying on a plate.

no paper towels in my world
 
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cheesecloth! even better, nasty cheesecloth that needs to be replaced.
 
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For tiny seeds like tomato, lettuce, carrot and so on, I buy the super cheap paper towels because no matter what I do they stick and I lose a lot. I let them dry on the cheap paper towel and cut them apart and plant paper and all. It makes working with tiny seeds easier for my arthritic hands.
 
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I dry them on plastic lids from food pots. then peel them off and into paper envelopes.
 
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A few tips I've found to be useful: Remove as much pulp as possible, then ...  1. Perform final rinse/wash in a colander, sieve, or tea strainer (depending on the seed size) and tap/bang off the excess water. 2. Use a towel or any other absorbing material on which to place the strainer.  The towel will wick away much of the water on the seeds.  3. (Optional) Spread the seeds around the sides of the strainer, and if you can waste a little electricity, use a blow drier (not too hot!) to remove more moisture. 4. Transfer seeds to parchment paper and spread them out.  The seeds won't stick to the parchment paper (and it can be reused).  Don't forget, exposure to the sun for a few hours can help cure the seeds and prevent mold. By these methods, you won't have to worry about the seeds sticking to anything.
 
pollinator
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Sometimes I save seed from someone else's stuff, so I end up with paper towel from their house. I have maybe ten of the half sized sheets accumulated over the last four or five years. I have paper towel I've used for at least ten different batches of squash seeds.

If I'm drying on fabric I prefer smooth fabric over textured. Like Judith, I use cut up t-shirts for rags and those work well.

I've found that to keep tomato seeds from sticking to paper, just stir them up occasionally as they dry. I reuse paper towel from tomatoes many times as well.
 
pollinator
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When drying tomato seeds, it helps to have a stick-resistant surface. I've used silicone baking pans, teflon-coated pans, and even origami trays made from parchment paper or waxed paper. The origami ones hold up well enough for multiple uses.

It also helps to stir the seeds several times as they're drying. At certain stages the clumps break apart and stay apart more easily.

For larger seeds, I just use a baking pan or a regular plate, not a paper one. Again, stir occasionally.

The times I've dried seeds on fabric, I wound up with very linty seeds. For home use that isn't a problem, but I produce seeds for a living, and lint is a big no-no!
 
pollinator
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I wash my seeds in a colander with a lot of water and I try to remove as much pulp as I can. Then I use the blue towels [ blue Scott's towels] to finish dying them. I put one above and one under. The one under gets too wet but you can let it dry to clean up spills & dry up the counters. The next day, I have clean seeds.
Then I put my seeds in a favor box, especially big seeds, like squash and pumpkins. The box is 3"X 2"X 2".  [Look up "favor boxes at Michael arts & craft store.] Since a single squash or pumpkin can easily fill a box, I can give the excess to my friends.
By the way, I do not use the dainty Kleenex towels  to blow my nose: The Scott Towels are so absorbent!   This is the only type of towel I use! They are very soft too, and they can stand up to repeated uses. They are stiff enough to wash by hand.
 
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When I need something like a paper towel, I use a piece of newspaper or a scrap of paper, like a used grocery list or junk mail. When it is fully dried it goes in a jar or envelope. I saved a few dark colored bottles, think lemon juice or medicine and save larger seeds in those. I use envelopes from junk mail, and tea bag envelopes for seeds and write the names on them. Folded over a paper clip may keep them contained and the envelope is reusable. I may rinse and dry a coffee filter and try that as an option as well
 
pollinator
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I use cookie sheets and scrape the seeds off with a metal spatula. They dry fine that way. For goopy seeds like pumpkin, I put them in a jar with water first and shake for a few seconds. I have also used a frame with window screen- they dry from all sides and don’t stick.
 
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I rinse through a stainless steel screen and put the seeds on a plate. It's very dry where I live, so the seeds dry very well next to a window.
 
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Perhaps it's my family history of gold mining, where we spent a lot of time getting separating tiny flakes of gold out of pans full of water and fine sediment.  But I use a similar method for seeds that doesn't seem to require any fabric or absorbent.

Typically my seeds are in a pint beer glass while they are being washed or having the goo fermented off them.  The sloped sides of the beer glass makes it easy to pour off most of the water and floating detritus.  A lot of times I'll splash and pour many times during the wash cycle for my seeds.  But eventually the seeds are ready to be dried.  At this point they are hanging out in the bottom of the glass along with a teaspoon or two of water.  

Then I dump them out on a large glass or ceramic plate, like a dinner plate.  It's usually trivial (says the former gold-panner) to swirl the water and seeds until all the seeds are more or less in one spot, then tilt the plate so that all the water slides away to the other side of the plate, leaving the seeds high and dry.  You can dab up the water with a dishrag at that point or just let it dry.  The seeds will dry too.  They may be a little bit clumped but you can stir them a bit with a toothpick or a table knife as they are drying out to separate them.  

I didn't start doing it this way to save on paper towels, I started doing it this way because seeds that touch paper towels end up stuck to the paper towels in my experience.  It's a lot easier to get dry seeds off a dry ceramic plate.
 
Posts: 27
Location: Schofields, NSW. Australia. Zone 9-11 Temperate to Sub Tropical
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I'm a 6th generation seed farmer and seedsaver/seller from Australia. So I'm loving this thread.
It is a great idea, especially if you use organic seed. Starting from scratch with a clean surface is sustainable and commonsense. I use a saucer or plate depending on the amount of seed and simply push the seeds around until they dry.
Many paper towel manufacturers use chemicals to bleach paper so wet seeds exposed to these are no longer organic and you've wasted money buying them unless they are from home grown clean plants; the seeds also stick to the paper and small amounts of fungi, often invisible to the eye, attach to the seeds which can cause a weaker germination rate.
I have found some fabrics can leave lint on the seed so using a smooth surface is my preferred method, as you can just wash and dry plates between batches. Reusing paper can often carry disease that transfers to the young seedlings, especially tomatoes.
It is also commonsense and sustainable to use what you already have. Metal strainers from the kitchen work well for most seeds. You can find smaller gauge wire for smaller seed cleaning from a lot of recycling places that have old window flyscreens.
Some of the suggestions show people who already adapt to something they already have at hand a very "permie way" to reuse or repurpose.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
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Annette Jones wrote:I'm a 6th generation seed farmer and seedsaver/seller from Australia. So I'm loving this thread.
It is a great idea, especially if you use organic seed. Starting from scratch with a clean surface is sustainable and commonsense. I use a saucer or plate depending on the amount of seed and simply push the seeds around until they dry.
Many paper towel manufacturers ...



It makes sense. I was wondering why I keep using the Scott's blue paper towels after I read your post. These towels are so absorbent and so cheap that I use them all the time: They are softer on my nose than anything else. I thought about it and it is so silly you will laugh: You see, I have trained my hubby to put all kitchen scraps  in a pail that I take religiously to the chickens every day. When he sees a bunch of seeds on a paper towel, he knows I am saving them and he does not put them in the pail. When they are on a plate, they go the way of most kitchen scraps.
It goes to show you that sometimes, bad, wasteful habits have some totally insane reasons and can be easily corrected.
Since these seeds need to be labeled anyway, next time I save some, I will put them on a plate of a small saucer and put a Post it on the plate next to the seeds. Thank you. Sometimes, a little introspection can correct bad habits.
 
Julie Reed
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“I have trained my hubby”

That’s even more valuable than saving seeds! 😁
 
Annette Jones
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

Annette Jones wrote:I'm a 6th generation seed farmer and seedsaver/seller from Australia. So I'm loving this thread.
It is a great idea, especially if you use organic seed. Starting from scratch with a clean surface is sustainable and commonsense. I use a saucer or plate depending on the amount of seed and simply push the seeds around until they dry.
Many paper towel manufacturers ...



It makes sense. I was wondering why I keep using the Scott's blue paper towels after I read your post. These towels are so absorbent and so cheap that I use them all the time: They are softer on my nose than anything else. I thought about it and it is so silly you will laugh: You see, I have trained my hubby to put all kitchen scraps  in a pail that I take religiously to the chickens every day. When he sees a bunch of seeds on a paper towel, he knows I am saving them and he does not put them in the pail. When they are on a plate, they go the way of most kitchen scraps.
It goes to show you that sometimes, bad, wasteful habits have some totally insane reasons and can be easily corrected.
Since these seeds need to be labeled anyway, next time I save some, I will put them on a plate of a small saucer and put a Post it on the plate next to the seeds. Thank you. Sometimes, a little introspection can correct bad habits.



I loved reading everyone's ideas and had to smile as I read how well trained you have your husband regarding "keep" or "throw". You sound just such an awesome team, putting a label on the plate is a great answer.
 
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