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Collecting seeds for planting
Collecting seeds that you can plant at home is a great idea. Indeed collecting seeds to plant the next crop is an ancient tradition.
You can collect all manner of seeds for fruit and vegetables to plant in your garden. Pumpkin seeds are a great example of a good seed to save. However, pumpkins can cross with zucchinis so grow them a little apart if you want to keep your seed true.
The best plants for saving seeds are heirlooms, because the seeds usually grow into plants that look like their parents. If you save seeds from hybrids, they probably will not grow into the exact same plants they came from.
True to seed refers to seeds, which when planted, produce plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant the seed came from.
Collecting Seeds Australia
The Seed Savers’ Network is a not-for-profit organisation based in Australia to conserve, in culture, seeds of traditional varieties of plants for food and other uses.
Seed Savers’ favour varieties that are locally-adapted, hardy and dependent on neither synthetic fertilisers nor toxic chemicals, but home-made composts. These home gardeners save locally-adapted seeds of tomorrow’s food.
Wet Seed Collection
If you are collecting ‘wet seeds’ like tomatoes, they should be soaked in water for a few days. Then sieve the pulp, washing under a tap to remove the mush. After this lay the seeds on a paper towel. Once they are completely dry, save the sheets of seed somewhere safe.
For example, when collecting tomato seeds, first make sure the fruit has fully ripened. Then scoop out the pulpy seeds and plop them into a jar of water. Leave for at least 3 days, but swirl the jar a couple times each day.
After a few days the seeds should have come free from the pulp and dropped to the bottom of the jar. So simply tip the water out and rinse the seeds. Afterwards, leave the seeds on a paper towel until fully dry. Then store your seeds in an envelope in a dry cool place.
If you are dealing with plants with exploding seed heads (eg peas) you will need to check them every few days. When you see seeds to collect, place a bag over the flowering head and shake. This should cause the ripe seed heads to explode into the bag. Otherwise you can remove the seed heads on their stems as they turn brown and place in a labelled paper bag.
How to store seeds for years
Make sure your seeds are dry before you store them. You don’t want them to rot!
Also remember that both high humidity and high temperatures are catalysts for germination. They trigger the seeds’ metabolism. So the ‘opposite’ conditions are best for storing seeds. If you live in the tropics it is particularly important to make sure you have found that ‘cool and dry’ place for seed storage.
After collecting seeds you need to store them. Place your seeds in an envelope or paper bag and seal them in plastic containers or glass jars. Then store them in that perfect dry, cool, dark environment.
Seeds will be viable for 1 to 2 years. However, two years after collecting your seeds you will see germination rates drop for many varieties of seed. While some seeds can last a lot longer, they do not last forever.