Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seed saving

There are many reasons why people choose to grow their own fruit and veg. Some for the fresh air and exercise, some to ensure they know exactly what they're eating and how it's been produced and some to reduce the environmental impact of food production on our environment. Many people choose to grow their own fruit and veg out of a desire to save money. Obviously, buying a packet of seeds is much cheaper than purchasing the end result veg from your local supermarket, but imagine if you could get the seeds for free as well?
I've slowly come around to the idea of seed saving around the veg plot. It seemed a bit of a hassle at  first but you just need to start with the easy stuff.
My focus is usually on large seeds - peas, mange tout, broad beans, etc. The mange tout seeds are usually saved by accident rather than design - if I haven't picked frequently enough then  there will be some plump pods hanging around. I take these off and leave them in the sunny greenhouse to dry out, crossing my fingers that the pea moth hasn't visited already. The last few broad bean pods go the same way once they've dried out a bit on the plant.

I've saved parsnip seeds for the first time this year from a parsnip I left to flower for the hoverflies. I left the resulting seed head for as long as I could outside - and then once the seeds started to drop off I cut it down and stored them in a paper bag.

And even flowers - I've been growing tagetes alongside my tomatoes for a couple of years now and noticed that as the tagetes died and dried, the centre of the flower was full of little needle-shaped seeds - looking like a tiny quiver full of arrows.
Nasturtium seeds are probably one of the easiest flower seeds to save as they're so big. I pull them off the plant once they've swelled up but often they'll simply fall to the soil and I collect them from there.

And I've been collecting seeds from the fried egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii) to plant again next spring. Once the flowers have died you can see the seeds (4 or 5) in the bottom of the calyx. Wait until they start to turn brown and then gently push them out.

The list is pretty endless in my garden - poppies, carrots, onion, leek, tomato, squash, aquilegia, sweet peas, sunflowers, chillies, melons, runner beans, sugar snaps...

What are your favourite seeds to save each year?


  1. I saved seeds for the first time last year. I'd been given some heirloom tomato seeds, Tangella, and found it hard to find them again to buy so I saved my own. I had 100% germination from them this year, and I'm now harvesting the ripe tomatoes. I'm really glad that I saved the seeds, they're delicious tomatoes.

  2. That's a lot of seeds for next planting season!

  3. Runner beans! Then I dry them and EAT them! Lovely.

  4. your broad bean pods look like some amazing coloured beetle shells!

    I've been recycling saved runner beans for the last couple of years with good success. The seed potatoes saved from last year varied depending on how much sprouting they'd done in the cellar and how large the spuds were (some were so tiny they had no energy left for growing).
    Your post has reminded me of seeds I bought but forgot to sow - nasturtium, sea kale, poppies. Hey ho, there's always next year!

  5. Seed saving is not only a great way to propagate your favourites but it is also great to be able to pass them along to friends. I must admit that I have not saved much in the way of veg seed apart from beans but have saved flower seeds for years :)