In this article I'm going to discuss how and when to collect seeds from your own garden.
We've all seen what happens when fruit begins to decay. The outer flesh starts to rot, leaving the seeds exposed. If you throw this fruit or vegetable matter into your garden when the conditions are just right you may be lucky enough to find a tree growing on the spot in the not too distant future. However, although this happens regularly in nature, we want to be able to control where and when our seeds bear fruit.
Seeds containers fall into two categories – fleshy and dry
- Fleshy fruits and vegetables such as oranges, pumpkins, cucumbers, capsicum and apples are pretty squishy when they begin to rot, so it's best to separate them from their containers.
- Dry fruits and vegetables such as beans, parsley, lettuce, peas, spinach etc. are easier to collect.
Let's take one favourite – the tomato – as an example of a fleshy fruit that needs a special seed collecting method.
First you need to know when the tomato seeds are ready for collection. That's easy enough with tomatoes; they turn from green to very bright red and then become too soft to eat. When the fruit looks to be past its "use-by" date, place the fruit in a jar of water and leave it for a few days. Finally, strain the pulp away and dry out the seeds between layers of kitchen paper.
TIP: If you have good compost spread around your garden you'll find that new tomato plants are inclined to pop up everywhere when the time is right!
Collecting seed from dry fruit and vegetables
Peas are a good example of dry seeds that can be collected easily. As peas become overripe their pods start to dry out. Simply harvest them and put them in a paper bag. Leave them in a dry spot until the seeds loosen from the pod completely, then scrape them away and put into storage.
Not all dry seeds are as manageable as peas and beans. For example, you might need to push very small seeds through a sieve to get them separated from their outer casing.
How to store your seeds
Store your seeds in paper bags or envelopes and label them clearly. Be sure to add the name and variety of the plant you collected the seed from e.g. Tomato, Cherry, and also add the date. Keep your seed packets in a cool, dry place. It's a good idea to make sure your seeds are well protected from rats and mice. If you leave your precious seeds in a shed, be sure to keep them tightly enclosed in a box or similar storage container. Ensuring your seeds stay clean and dry will also protect them from fungal diseases that thrive on moisture.
Once your garden is producing a variety of crops, using this method, you may find you have no need to buy vegetable seeds.
About the Author
Janet Hall likes to promote organic gardening as a way of life. She believes that anyone can grow a good supply of food even with limited space. Visit her site to get started building your own organic garden, or take the free mini-course at Organic Garden Guide to learn more and discover many great resources.