Storing Seeds: Saving My Top Crops for Next Year

This is a first: a combined video-cast and written rundown…all this for the topic of storing seeds successfully. Watch and/or read more.
Beans and tomato seeds drying for storage | Small Green Garden

It’s late fall here — the bush beans finally dried a papery tan on the plants so that I could collect some for seed, and we’re really loving  “Carnival” acorn squash from the farmers’ market; With a freakishly beautiful, mottled skin of bright orange, olive green, and creamy white, they’re real lookers on the table, and, halved and stuffed with couscous and maple sausage from Hogwash Farm, they are now a critical component of my family’s favorite autumn meal.

All this good eating also means handfuls of acorn squash seeds, which I’m eager to save and try my hand at growing next summer, alongside the wildly prolific “Provider” bush green beans.

Other crops that have made the grade and will be saved for subsequent seasons: gorgeous burgundy-and-blond “Solar Flashback” calendula; seeds codged from our summer CSA, including butternut squash, mini pie pumpkin, and bell pepper; and every last tomato seed I could save from the pervasive blight — mostly “Glacier,” a small variety which fared the best during our strangely cool, rainy summer; some “Striped German;” and a precious few “Brandywine.” I had absolutely no luck harvesting “Black Krim” or “Super Bush” tomatoes this year, alas, and although we ate a lot of delicious “Costata Romanesco” zucchini the size of small zeppelins, these puppies really do not give up their seeds easily. I saved a teaspoonful, but suspect I’ll have to buy new seed, if I want any kind of crop next year.

Believe it or not, I’m still waiting on certain seeds: The last of the calendula, which are holding out despite hard frosts, and my favorite “Tonda di Parigi” carrots, which won’t actually produce seed until their second year. I’ll overwinter some in containers on my balcony, protected in my new mini-greenhouse, and hope for the best. A heirloom variety shaped like diminutive ping-pong balls, they’re tasty, sweet, and perfectly suited to my lazy-chef ways: I just wash them and pop them into stews whole.

I’ve found that seeds like tomato, pepper, and many flower seeds store well in small, sealed glass jars.  Baby food jars, thoroughly dishwashed, lid and all, are my favorite containers this year. To give these seeds additional moisture protection, try adding a small sachet of home-made “desiccant,” which I make from nothing more than a one-ply square of napkin and a scant spoonful of powdered milk — roll, bend, tie into a neat knot, and drop into your seed jar.

Winter squash seeds are easy to collect by the handful, but, I’ve found, tricky to preserve long-term — they will just fester in a sealed glass jar, and seem to need a good amount of airflow. So, after I’ve washed them and removed all flesh — which is a tedious task, at best, but I use a colander under running water for the best results — I spread them out on paper towels and allow them to dry for a couple days, just to be on the safe side of mold formation. Then, I simply fold them into a loose envelope of paper towels, a package that allows them to “breathe” better. I’m pretty confident that paper seed packets would work well, too.

Once they’re bundled, or coddled and sealed, respectively, these seeds need a dark place to spend the winter — mine are ultimately destined for our condo’s basement storage area.

8 Responses to “Storing Seeds: Saving My Top Crops for Next Year”

  1. Jesica Pazmino

    A pal urged me to look at this website, brill post, fascinating read… keep up the cool work!

  2. Kate

    Thanks very much! Cheap-o gardening is truly an obsession of mine. Now if only I had time for my bird-brained ideas and more blogging!

  3. Google

    tif Car
    respectively, these seeds need a dark place to spend the winter — mine are ultimately destined for our condo’s basement storage area.

  4. Yahoo

    homegarden

    respectively, these seeds need a dark place to spend the winter — mine are ultimately destined for our condo’s basement storage area.

  5. Google

    which I’m eager to save and try my hand at growing next summer, alongside the wildly prolific “Provider” bush green beans.
    Nan Sophie

  6. Google

    respectively, these seeds need a dark place to spend the winter — mine are ultimately destined for our condo’s basement storage area.

    cards FHA

  7. Yahoo

    homegarden
    respectively, these seeds need a dark place to spend the winter — mine are ultimately destined for our condo’s basement storage area.

  8. Yahoo

    homeGarden
    have priority of place and precious potting mix; no tomatoes started yet, either, because that feels like hurrying past spring right into summer. And I’m not actually ready for summer yet — I’m just starting to really enjoy spring.

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