Growing the community

Saving the planet one seed at a time

From Bega Valley Seed Saver, Julie Davies

Have you ever thought about saving your own seeds? Why don’t you give it a try this growing season? It’s not rocket science and you can learn heaps from just doing it.

The easiest way to begin is to grow some plants that self pollinate, leave them in the ground until the seeds mature, harvest the seeds and dry them out before you store them ready for next season.

The safest veggies to save seed from are any varieties of peas, beans (dwarf and climbing) and lettuce as these are all self pollinators. Here is a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose some open pollinated seed to start with (should say open pollinated, heritage or heirloom on the packet). Or source some from a local seed saver group.
  2. Grow enough seedlings so that you can have some plants to eat and some to save seed from (best not to eat from the ones you are going to use for seed saving).
  3. Grow the plants as you normally would, but keep different varieties (of the same vegetable) separated by a few metres. Some people find it better to grow their plants for seed in a separate bed as the plants will need to be in the ground for longer.
  4. It’s really, really important to label the variety you have planted so that you can label the seed accurately later, especially if you’re donating to a seed saving group.
  5. Leave the plants in the ground until the seed forms and matures (this is when the seed becomes hard and the seed pod becomes dry and crunchy, or for lettuce when the fluffy white bits form on top of the seed pod).
  6. Harvest the seed (from the best, healthiest plants only) preferably on a dry day — remove as much of the plant as you can and spread it out to dry on a rack or table under cover. You may need to put it on a tarp or sheet to catch any seed as it dries.
  7. Gather the seed and leave it in a bowl to dry again.
  8. When it’s completely dry, store it in a vermin-proof airtight container in a cool dark place ready for next season, and/or share some with friends and neighbours.

That’s it! Not too difficult, especially if you are already a vegetable grower.

Vegetables that cross pollinate are a bit harder to save seed from as they need larger separation distances to ensure that your seed is pure.

If saving seed interests you, SAGE is planning to hold a half-day workshop on seed saving next autumn, specially tailored to growing vegetable seeds in this area. If you give seed saving a try in your garden this season, you will have some great questions to ask at the workshop!

Further information and videos can be found at The Bega Valley Seed Savers website – seedsavers.scpa.org.au or from seed saving books in your local library.

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