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Where to start with seed saving?

 
Posts: 2
Location: San Diego, CA
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I'm interested in starting to save seeds, but I have no idea what I'm doing. What are the best resources for a complete newbie?
 
pioneer
Posts: 168
Location: Michigan - Zone 6a
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My favorite recommendation for seed saving is the Seed Saver Exchange's guides. They'll give you a starting point for common fruits and vegetables!

If you've never saved seeds before and want something very easy to start with, I would recommend beans or peas. In both cases, you just let the pods dry once fully mature (ideally on the plant, weather permitting) and then take the dried seeds out of the pods and let them dry a bit more.
 
master steward
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I assume you are wanting to save seeds from the fruits and veggies from your garden.

The easy way to learn how to save seeds is just by doing it.  Once you get started and have a collection of seeds then you can start selectively picking the best fruit and vegetable so you can landrace your seeds.

Here are some excellent threads that will help you:

https://permies.com/t/119976/Saving-seeds-Basic-information

https://permies.com/t/46886/Saving-Seeds-Breeding-Plants-Landrace

I feel these two will help explain.  To me, saving seeds is fun and when you plant the ones you saved and get to eat what they produced it is even more fun.
 
Tammy Churchill
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Location: San Diego, CA
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I can see myself getting lost for many hours on that site. Thank you so much for pointing me in their direction.
 
pioneer
Posts: 166
Location: SF Bay, California Zone 10b
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I've taken the somewhat lazy approach to seed saving. Everytime I eat something, I pull the seeds out and go throw it in some dirt somewhere.
 
pollinator
Posts: 315
Location: 10 miles NW of Helena Montana
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I started saving seeds many years ago by neglecting my garden and many plants went to seed.
The next year I bought very few seeds.
Now I save seeds from the best of the fruits and veggies.
 
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Malek’s “lazy approach” sounds like mine… I let the good stuff go to seed then just shake it around the garden. Or for frost tender stuff (like beans), I put them in an envelope til spring, then plant them out, usually with no clue what variety they are, just that they grew well!
 
pioneer
Posts: 87
Location: Central Virginia, Zone 7.
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Malek Beitinjan wrote:I've taken the somewhat lazy approach to seed saving. Everytime I eat something, I pull the seeds out and go throw it in some dirt somewhere.



That doesn't sound lazy to me!

 
Posts: 18
Location: Appalachia, Hardiness Zone 6b
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My personal introductions to seed saving were Bill Best's Saving Seeds, Perserving Taste, and Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical Self-Reliant Gardening. I would say Bill Best's book was a rudimentary introduction to the concept, and mostly cultural discussion as to why people have done it. Will Bonsall's work is a broad swathe of information pertinent for self-reliant homesteading and includes much about saving seed. From there I have been working through Suzanne Ashworth's Seed to Seed in tandem with Thomas J. Elpel's Botany in a Day.
 
Posts: 97
Location: Chilean Patagonia
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Like someone else said, try beans and peas first. Radishes are another easy one, just let them go to seed over the summer and then when the seed pods have dried strip them off the stems and store them in an open basket. When I want to plant them, I just throw out the pods whole. Works for me and I bet it would be a good system for other brassicas. Peppers are another easy one, I grab the seeds and put them out on a paper plate to dry for a few days then keep them in a ziploc in the freezer or in a paper bag in a "cool dry place". Pumpkins are my favorite--scoop out the seeds, then leave them to dry on a plate. I store them in paper bags or small cardboard boxes. Then come spring, throw 'em in the ground and leave' em to their own devices!

The great thing about landrace breeding is that you don't have to freak out about cross-pollination or seed-labeling. At least, I don't 😜
 
steward
Posts: 5698
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Marie Abell wrote:The great thing about landrace breeding is that you don't have to freak out about cross-pollination or seed-labeling. At least, I don't 😜



When I stopped keeping records, I was able to grow twice as much food for the same labor, or the same amount of food for half the labor. Whichever way I want to look at it.

 
Posts: 33
Location: Madras OR 6A on the dry side of Cascadia, 2300 ft
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No record keeping?  I'm buying your book!
 
pioneer
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I have a bag of the seeds I saved from last year that aren't going to be used in my garden. I intend to mix those seeds with deer food plot seeds just to see what would come up. It'll be late in the season so no danger of any cross pollination with my garden. They may not make it to maturity before frost kills them, but I doubt the deer would let them grow anyway.
I always use heirloom seeds. If managed properly, which mine ain't yet, you'll have seeds forever, but it's always good to swap seeds to introduce new DNA. That's why seed exchanges love to have seeds to exchange, for a price. You donate seeds to them, they sell them back to you...there's a racket in there somewhere!
I have reached out to fellow small gardeners in the area to trade seeds. Most seem content to simply buy seeds from walmart and not worry about saving them. There's a never ending supply, right? That's kinda like buying your meat at a store where no animal gets hurt. Most have no clue where those seeds come from or the parentage. I have a personal opinion these hybrids have a link to the European honey bee colony collapse we are all worried about. Personally, I'm not that worried about it. The folks who are worried are the big, corporate farmers. They depend on those bees for pollination.
Remember, those bees are a naturalized, invasive species. The America's have their own pollinators. Homestead farmers won't have an issue with pollination, except almost everyone in rural America has a garden and spacing between gardens in my area rarely exceeds the miles required for isolation. It's kind of a crap shoot... So, that begs the question, do I continue to save seeds hoping my heirloom Sweet Corn isn't cross pollinated with a local hybrid and it's either sterile or something weird comes up, or do I buy seeds from Walmart?
 
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I would like to start a landrace of winter squash.  I am wondering how many seeds to plant out.  Do you plant more densely than usually recommended, then select against weak plants?  Do you make a point of planting out equal numbers of seeds from each fruit?  Or just mix and plant out as many as you have room for?  Thanks.
 
pollinator
Posts: 281
Location: WV
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I agree with Anne.  Just do it.

I'm lucky to have grown up near my grandparents and great-grandparents who were all gardeners and/or farmers.  Seed saving was a normal part of life.  Seeds were usually kept in a jar in the freezer during the winter or stored on a high shelf in a dark cupboard.  I unwittingly sowed thousands of columbine, balsam and weed seeds over the years too because it was cool to shake, pop or blow the seeds everywhere.  Our slop pile (compost) always grew the best tomatoes, potatoes and musk melons from discarded produce.  Over the years I've taken more of an interest in different seeds and grow things I never imagined growing.  With the available resources online, it's fairly easy to find storage and germination requirements for just about anything.
 
pollinator
Posts: 726
Location: Utah
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Michael Dotson wrote:Homestead farmers won't have an issue with pollination, except almost everyone in rural America has a garden and spacing between gardens in my area rarely exceeds the miles required for isolation. It's kind of a crap shoot... So, that begs the question, do I continue to save seeds hoping my heirloom Sweet Corn isn't cross pollinated with a local hybrid and it's either sterile or something weird comes up, or do I buy seeds from Walmart?

The "miles for pollination," in my opinion, is another myth made up by those selling seeds. For squash or beans it's something like 30 feet. I really don't pay that much attention. If you really want to keep your cabbage clean of broccoli genes, plant one for seed in 2020 and the other in 2021. If you harvest the broccoli before it goes to seed, you can plant the cabbage right next to it and let the cabbage go to seed without a problem.

Provided you don't have anything in your garden that is closely related, you can just let whatever you have go to seed, collect the seeds, and you're on your way.

Corn is another issue, one I haven't figured out yet.
 
Michael Dotson
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Lauren Ritz wrote:The "miles for pollination," in my opinion, is another myth made up by those selling seeds.



I've had my doubts about those miles myself. I haven't done any research into it, but 2 miles to maintain species integrity? I just have my doubts...
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
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For something that is wind pollinated it MIGHT go as high as 1/2 mile, but at that distance your chances of pollen actually landing where it can create a cross is minuscule to nonexistent. Bee pollination, not a chance. While (honey) bees travel a long distance for flowers, they return to the hive often to divest themselves of their harvest. Native bees are a different story, as they don't actually "carry" pollen but usually just eat at the flowers and move on. They pollinate a lot more, in a smaller area.
 
gardener
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Location: N. California
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What do you save your seeds in.  Paper envelope, glass jar, cloth bag?  Does it matter?  I know some need to be in the fridge, but some don't.  Anyone know of a good list of where which seeds should be saved?  Thanks
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
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Most seeds will do fine in a cool dark cupboard or closet or box. Most will do better in a colder dark environment, such as the refrigerator. Not all can withstand freezing, but most will. It depends on how much water is in the seed itself (not the fruit).

Don't use plastic, as if the seeds aren't sufficiently dehydrated they will mildew. Just about anything else should be fine.
 
pollinator
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Location: Summers County, West Virginia
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Thats a really good question and for some people it will be seed saving around a particular theme. Examples:

Xericscaping: What historically grows here and what can come back.

Ethnobotany: What did a given culture depend on for their food, textiles, fodder, wood and medicine?

Kitchen Garden: (Many start here). What do YOU eat? How do YOU cook? What are YOUR nutritional requirements? Plant what you eat.

Reforestation, Bioremediation, Re-greening projects
: Dealing directly with Earth recovery, locally and globally by strategically planting optimal producers for a given region, or bringing back entire ecosystems. What stabilizes the land, holds moisture, what are pioneer crops for that which is to follow, carbon-focused agriculture, provide shade, cooling.

Survivalism, Tribalism:  What if some NEW crisis occurred and Petrochemicals gave out in say 10 years instead of 50? How would you and your community survive? Do you have enough fuel, plants for textiles,  effective pharmacology? Could you produce enough food for yourself for one year? Your family? Your block? Your town? And so on....can you make oil, paint, paper, clothing, footwear, do you have structural materials so you can build? Can you power light technologically appropriate industry? Wood and charcoal for a forge? Materials to make wheeled contraptions, tools.

Library of Genetic Diversity: Noah's Ark for shorthand, would you like to get on a very methodical campaign to collect viable plant starts, seeds from around the planet and protect and curate them ongoing as a library from which the rest of the planet could rely in times of trouble?

Industry specific: Some subcategories come to mind: Dyes, Medicinals, Herbicides, Fungicides, Insecticides, Hardoods, Musical Instrument woods, Ship-building woods, Aircraft woods,

Archery Related Collections:  (a) Bows  (b) bowstrings (c) arrowshafts (d) adhesives  (e) colorants (f) quivers

Grain Collections:

Toxins and Mind Altering Collections:

Anti-toxins, anti-snakebite, scorpion and spider-bite collection:

Brewing Collections:

Nitrogen-Fixers: Useful for obvious reasons

Animal Fodders  (a) Mammals   (b) Avians

Regional Collections:

Endangered plants:

Plants for textiles and rope making:

And so on....

 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Debbie Ang wrote:I would like to start a landrace of winter squash.  I am wondering how many seeds to plant out.  Do you plant more densely than usually recommended, then select against weak plants?  Do you make a point of planting out equal numbers of seeds from each fruit?  Or just mix and plant out as many as you have room for?  Thanks.



My general strategy when starting a landrace, is to count out about equal numbers of seeds from each of the starting varieties. Then jumble them together in a bowl, and plant them out. I minimize culling the first few generations. I want the ecosystem to do most of the culling. Even if a plant doesn't make a fruit, it might donate some pollen to the patch. After a couple years, then I might start culling some of the weaker plants, or saving seeds preferentially from the more productive.

Because I am primarily a plant breeder, growing seeds to share with others, I keep genetics around that I might otherwise cull.

When I plant beans, I sort the bulk seed, and pick out about 20 seeds of each phenotype that I can observe. I plant the selected seeds all jumbled up together. This helps to keep the rarer types around. If I just planted bulk seed, the little pink beans, and the pinto beans would dominate the population after a few years.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:What do you save your seeds in.  Paper envelope, glass jar, cloth bag?  Does it matter?  I know some need to be in the fridge, but some don't.  Anyone know of a good list of where which seeds should be saved?  Thanks



I store seeds in glass jars:

Cold (room temperature or below)
dark (out of direct sunlight)
dry   (shatters when hit with a hammer)
Secure (mice and bugs can't eat them)

seed-stash-sharp_640.jpg
Seed storage
Seed storage
 
Marie Abell
Posts: 97
Location: Chilean Patagonia
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Joseph, I saw in another thread where you were talking about seed-saving and mentioned that a good idea would be to put the seeds inside a bag, inside a glass jar. That way if your jars break all is not lost. For me, here in one of the world's most active earthquake zones, that was great advice!

I also liked what someone (probably Joseph) suggested somewhere around here, which is to keep redundant storage areas for seeds, such as one in the house, another in the barn, another with a trusted friend. This way fires or floods or what have you don't completely annihilate years of hard work.

Something that all of this brings to mind, that I am very interested in doing more, is encouraging strains that successfully self-seed. How much better is it to have an effectively perennial radish patch than having to fiddle with saving seeds every year?? Of course, this might not work as well in more extreme climates or where the weather is more unpredictable (false summers, etc). I am thinking that the ideal scenario would be to encourage self-seeding while maintaining a safely-stored seed bank in case of unforeseen events.
 
Marie Abell
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Location: Chilean Patagonia
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Also, can we just appreciate how Joseph's seed storage is so beautiful it could be an art exhibit 😍😍😍
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Marie Abell wrote:Also, can we just appreciate how Joseph's seed storage is so beautiful it could be an art exhibit 😍😍😍



I spent an entire day preparing to take that photo, AS A WORK OF ART, specifically for the book.

That really is the shelf that I custom built to store my seeds on. I moved it out of the dark corner into a bright spot, dusted. Redid labels, etc...
 
Marie Abell
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Location: Chilean Patagonia
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Marie Abell wrote:Also, can we just appreciate how Joseph's seed storage is so beautiful it could be an art exhibit 😍😍😍



I spent an entire day preparing to take that photo, AS A WORK OF ART, specifically for the book.

That really is the shelf that I custom built to store my seeds on. I moved it out of the dark corner into a bright spot, dusted. Redid labels, etc...



Haha! Well at least now we know that even the pros have dark dusty corners full of things just like we mortals do 😜
 
Michael Dotson
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The medical marijuana stores here sell their product in small aluminum bowls with lids. They're perfect for storing seeds. I Sharpee the name, planting depth...on the outside so I have all the info at my fingertips.
I have one of those burial vault models. It's about 2 feet long, a foot deep and a foot wide. It's made of concrete and is heavy. Like the real thing, it has a heavy lid.They were built as display models for funeral homes. That is going to be my seed storage vault. Those bowls will stack in there just fine. I could even put a DIY inner tube rubber seal under the lid.
The vault will be kept in my shop, in the corner, in the dark! Ain't no seed eating critter gonna git in there!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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And i only post photos taken immediately after weeding. Except for the once a year weedy mess that i post, to show I'm human.
 
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