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Pip's Tips

Storing seeds

Using non hybrid seeds in your garden means that you can successfully save the seed from your seedlings and sow them again the next year. The resulting plants will be strong, fertile and true to type unlike those sown from hybrid seeds. Saving your own seeds means that over time your plants will adapt to suit your own unique garden. It also means that you will no longer have to buy seeds from the shop but will have a ready supply in your own garden.

This section includes information on:

How To Save Seed

The following are a few basic guidelines to follow when it comes to saving your own seeds, anyone can do it and it’s a lot of fun.

  1. Identify the individual plants in your garden that are displaying characteristics you want the next years crop to have. This may be the biggest fruit, the healthiest growth, the least pest effected leaves, the most frost resistant.
  2. Mark these plants somehow (e.g. with a stake and piece of bright material tied onto it) so that you (and other garden helpers) know not to harvest this plant.
  3. Let this plant flower and set seed (if it’s a leafy green or tuber) or fruit (e.g. tomato)
  4. If it’s a leafy green (such as spinach) or tuber (such as carrot) leave the plant in the ground until the seed has dried out, turned brown and comes off easily from the plant.
  5. Its best to collect seed from plants in the morning on cool-warm day after the dew has evaporated to ensure the seed is dry.
  6. Collect the seed in a paper bag. Try to just get seed and not to much other plant matter in the bag.
  7. Let the seed dry out further by keeping it in the paper bag, in a dark place with a constant temperature e.g. the pantry.
  8. Whole plants can also be pulled out and hung upside down in a dry place with a paper bag ties over the seed heads to catch the dried seeds.
  9. Fruiting plants are a little different to harvest seed from. Some are easier than others.
  10. Usually the fruit is picked from the plant when it is very ripe.
  11. The seed is removed and cleaned with water to remove any remaining flesh from the seed. It is then dried out thoroughly and stored in paper bags and labelled as above.
  12. With fruits like tomato, cucumber, pumpkin, cantaloupe, remove the seeds and sit in a container of water for 1-2 days to allow them to ferment. Remove and seeds which float on the top of the water. After 1-2 days rinse the seeds to remove any remaining flesh and allow to dry on paper.
  13. Other fruits like capsicum and chilli can be cut out and dried immediately.
  14. LABEL all seeds carefully so you remember where they’ve come from, how old they are and what their characteristics are. Label should include: the date the seed was harvested, the plant type, where the seed/ling came from originally, the place it was harvested from and any interesting characteristics of the plant e.g. drought tolerant.
  15. The bigger the seed the longer it will last in storage. Small seeds like broccoli, basil and poppy will only remain viable for a couple of years so need to be replanted every 1-2 years. Bigger seeds like broad beans will last a few more years but its still best to try and replant them every 1-2 years to ensure they don’t get diseased or become unviable in storage.

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Storing Seeds

A seed bank is a place where you can store all your seed and keep it alive for the next planting. It can be as simple as a suitcase in a cupboard, a shelf in the pantry, a recycled refrigerator or a specially constructed vault.

There are a few important things to remember however when storing your seed so that they will remain viable for the next years planting.

  1. In general; the bigger the seed the longer it will last in storage and remain viable. This said, it is still good to replant your seeds every year so that they remain viable and strong and you can continue to select good characteristics and share them with gardening buddies.
  2. Seeds need to be thoroughly dried and cleaned to maximise the storage time and reduce possibility of disease.
  3. Seeds need to be stored in a dark and cool place (5-20 degrees C) with low humidity.
  4. Seeds can be stored in water bottles, jars, paper bags inside air tight clear glass containers, plastic zip lock bags.
  5. It’s important that seeds are in airtight containers as insects, fungi, viruses and bacteria wont be able to survive without air.
  6. It’s a good idea to include something in your seed bank which will absorb and moisture that may result from seeds not properly dried. These include ash, rice (hulled or unhulled), coconut oil, sachets from mountain bread packets. This may need to be replaced every few months.
  7. It’s also a good idea to include something in your seed bank to repel insects. Dried chilli, pepper or dried marigold flowers and leaves.
  8. All seeds remain viable for 3-4 years if stored in a fridge.
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