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Easiest and Hardest Seeds to Save

 
master gardener
Posts: 1807
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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Some seeds are super easy to save, just pick, dry, and store, voila!

Others take quite a process to harvest at just the right time, take a lot of cleaning to separate the seeds, and some even have picky storage requirements.

Basil is one of the easiest to me. The seeds can remain on the stalk for a pretty long time creating a long harvest window. Most of the seeds can be easily removed from the stalk by sliding it in between your fingers from the bottom to the top. Some chaff gets collected along with the seeds, but I just dry it and store it all, which makes it super quick and easy.

Cucumbers here are a bit more challenging. It seems the hot weather here creates a shorter harvest window from when the seeds are fully developed and when it turns to mushy cucumber soup out in the garden. It can also be quite a messy process separating the seeds.

What are some of the easier and harder seeds that you save?
 
pollinator
Posts: 628
Location: Montana
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There are lots of wildflower seeds that shake right out pretty clean and dry. Bee Balm or  Monarda is like that. Then because the seeds are simple fairly roundish things cleaning the with a fan or a seed blower is a snap. Along the same lines, poppy seeds. The kind with open capsules will pour out easily and it's beautiful clean seed.

Seeds in burrs can be difficult. Fermentation sure takes time. Some seeds can have accessory structures that can be hazardous during seed collection, cleaning, and processing. Some wildland plants seed processing can be an inhalation hazard. There is a cercocarpus or Mountain Mahogany I think in SOCAL with trichome's or hairs on the seeds that are pretty hazardous when they get on your skin or go down your shirt. My dad got drummed out of wheat farming by asthma attacks when augering grain as a kid.

Fermenting tomato seed sounds a little complicated but it is pretty second nature to me after doing lots of little batches for the last three years. I think it is a pretty pleasant process actually so I wouldn't call it difficult.

I keep a few glassine coin envelopes in with my dissecting kit in my bag and if I encounter something of interest in seed on a hike I'll save a few. Often it is as simple as separating a few clean dry seeds and putting them right into an envelope.  Then just not putting the envelope into a tightly sealed container for a few weeks so the seed can continue to dry. Once fully dry store away the envelope. It works in the garden too. Or in a parking lot. Lots of landscapers use native, useful, or edible plants. With permission a friend or neighbor might let you take a little seed if you have your own coin envelopes. Seed collecting and cleaning is greatly simplified if you only need a little bit in a coin envelope for your own use.
 
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Location: USDA zone 6a/5b
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sunflower, winter squash, pumpkin, corn, and beans are rather easy
 
pollinator
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The most difficult I know of is cacao. If not put into the ground immediately after getting the seeds out of the pods, its germination rate goes down really fast. But it's a tropical species, so I guess it's not the most relevant to most permies.

But other than that, I'm actually quite impressed how easy it is to grow plants and trees from seed!
 
pollinator
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Squash and melons are probably among the easiest.

For me, biennials are really hard. Especially carrots or parsnips. In addition to the overwintering part, my land is also covered in wild versions of both, and it's too windy to bag the blossoms. I have no way to keep them from crossing with the wild ones.
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:Squash and melons are probably among the easiest.

For me, biennials are really hard. Especially carrots or parsnips. In addition to the overwintering part, my land is also covered in wild versions of both, and it's too windy to bag the blossoms. I have no way to keep them from crossing with the wild ones.



I know wild carrots tend to have white and not super tasty roote but foragers do eat it.

However, are wild parsnips substantially different from domestic in flavor and other important characteristics?

How different do different parsnip varieties taste vs wild?

I know parsnips do vary in shape from turnip like Kral to half longs, to wider ones like turga, and long slender varieties like the Lancer that naturalized in my garden. Does the shape matter alot? Are the wild ones annoyingly skinny say? If you plant the wild seed in your garden how's it perform?

How many are the wild ones? What would it take to have a positive genetic impact on their populations?

 
gardener
Posts: 532
Location: Central Texas
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I agree with basil being easy. I'm still finding basil plants with the seeds intact that were chopped/dropped for mulch last fall.
Sunflowers are an easy one if the birds don't decimate the seed heads before collection. Okra is another easy one (as well as most of the other mallows/hibiscus).

Personally, the seeds requiring fermentation are the most difficult. Mainly just because it's hard for me to remember to stir & do water changes, so by the time I do remember, it's usually a nasty mush. Then, it is difficult to find a strainer which is small enough to catch the seeds, but larger enough to let the gunk go through. Pineapple guava is a prime example, as I've learned this winter.
The smaller seeds with lots of chaff don't really bother me. I just crunch it all up, together, and disperse the chaff with the seed when I'm sowing. It helps hold moisture by serving as a thin mulch.
 
Posts: 344
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
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Written as a person who just saved seed heads when they formed after growing things out.

My asparagus is simple.  Little red berries appear on the female plants (I grew my asparagus from seed, so I have female plants.  I think if year old crowns are bought, they are mostly male).  Anyway, I just throw the berries in the freezer, and if I want to plant more asparagus, I break the berry open and get one to three black seeds that have had good germination rates.

Kale was simple.  When the seed heads formed, and turned brown, I just grabbed them off and threw them in an envelope.  Then they got thrown in the freezer.  I did this two years ago, and have had great germination with the seed (I'm germinating them in the house right now).

Cilantro is simple.  Just let the plant go to seed (probably the easiest to get to go to seed from my experience) and then rub the stickly branches over a large sheet of cardboard then throw them in a jar or envelope.

Collards, just like kale.

Turnip, just like kale.

Radish, just like kale.

Pak Choy, just like the kale.

Swiss Chard, just let the seed head grow out, and collect the little knobby seeds off it.

Calendula, rub the dead flower heads and save the cyclical seed.   Three years old now, and still viable.  Kept in the freezer the whole time.

I only did tomato once, and it was from a Matt's Wild Cherry variety, so maybe those are really simple (I have dang Matt's Wild Cherry growing like weeds everywhere in my yard now, a very hardy tomato here in the desert).  I literally took a wrinkly, brown, tomato off the vine (it was still mushy inside and not dry at all), squished it apart to get to the seeds, dried them on a piece of cardboard for a few days in the garage, then planted them.  The germination was great.  I did this in December of this year from a plant that had just froze a couple of months before, and now I'm cloning the plants to make them smaller since they were getting too big to manage.

****  I'm actually growing the Matt's for its root stock, and want to graft Brad's Atomic Grape cherry tomato to it.  Never done a graft before but it seems simple enough.  Bought a bunch of clips off of Amazon made just for it.

As mentioned the gourds/pumpkin/cucumber are pretty simple.

Peas, simple, pick'em when they're dry on the vine, and put them in the freezer.

If anyone wants some of my dino kale, pak choy, turnip, asparagus, or cilantro seed, just ask.  I'm happy to give it away if you take the time to send me a self addressed stamped envelope and say what you want.  It'd be cool if you sent some mystery seed to me (I live in the desert, so don't send anything that obviously wouldn't grow here).  Not saying I'd try it, but maybe.  No need to send anything, though.  I'll give it away for free.  The reality is, it would be much more efficient to go to the store and buy it there, lol.  The asparagus might be worth it.  The person I got the seed from (for free) told me it had been growing in the desert southwest for the last 100 years, so there's that.  I can't say that I know enough to know if it's doing better than anything that could be planted from the nursery, though.  Please do it through a purple moosage if you want some.  
A few people have traded with me on this site from a previous post(s) I've made.  I got some Indian Blue Hoppi (spelling) from someone a few years ago, and I just might try to plant it this year!

Oh yeah, I'm your source for desert willow seed.  If you want desert willow, I got plenty hanging off the (now about 25) trees in my yard, most of them started from seed I just sprinkled over the ground and let nature do her thing.

and none of my posts would be complete without too many pictures!



IMG_20200207_060737048.jpg
My name is not S., and yes, I'm a compulsive seed saver. :)
My name is not S., and yes, I'm a compulsive seed saver. :)
IMG_20200207_060749416.jpg
Sugar snap peas, and I want to try planting some almond seed eventually, haven't done it yet though.
Sugar snap peas, and I want to try planting some almond seed eventually, haven't done it yet though.
IMG_20200207_060753489.jpg
This is how a lot of it looks when I save it. From plant to envelope to freezer. Break pods open, get seeds, plant
This is how a lot of it looks when I save it. From plant to envelope to freezer. Break pods open, get seeds, plant
IMG_20200207_060839404.jpg
Bad picture of seeds inside pod.
Bad picture of seeds inside pod.
IMG_20200207_061019521.jpg
Cilantro/coriander.
Cilantro/coriander.
IMG_20200207_061247476.jpg
Asparagus berries, and seeds that are inside them.
Asparagus berries, and seeds that are inside them.
IMG_20200207_061441039.jpg
Bunch of different tomatoes I'm cloning. SO SIMPLE TO CLONE. Tap water, and a cut sucker with indirect light.
Bunch of different tomatoes I'm cloning. SO SIMPLE TO CLONE. Tap water, and a cut sucker with indirect light.
IMG_20200207_061456725.jpg
One week's worth of growth. Off topic, but fun!
One week's worth of growth. Off topic, but fun!
IMG_20191114_144057922.jpg
This is where the cloned Matt's came from. The roots above came from this seed.
This is where the cloned Matt's came from. The roots above came from this seed.
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 344
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
93
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Forgot to put this one in.

This is the dino kale seed that's from 2018, I think.

I over seeded the modules, and it looks like most of the seed germinated.  This picture was taken right now.
IMG_20200207_060251702.jpg
Dino Kale planted a week ago as of today
Dino Kale planted a week ago as of today
 
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