Whether it’s preparing for existence after a natural disaster, living off the grid, fighting expensive food prices, or simply providing healthy and sustainable food for your family, having a source of quality seeds is essential.
Why Save Seeds?
We are only as healthy as our planet, so creating a diverse and sustainable ecosystem is very important for our survival. Even the government realizes the importance of protecting the genetic resources in seeds. The United States has the Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. This facility safeguards over 12,000 plant species, and then there’s the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world's largest secure seed storage.
While you may not be able to single-handedly protect the planet, there are several reasons why you should harvest and save seeds.
You can choose the plants that performed the best in your environment to save the seeds so what you produce from planting them next season will be the best performing versions of the variety for you.
Harvesting seeds and replanting them means you don’t have to purchase new seeds. It’s another step towards self-sufficiency.
Most commercially available seeds are sourced from large crops. A single crop failure could make some seeds scarce, but you will guarantee availability if you’ve saved your seeds.
Another benefit of harvesting your seeds is that you can then share and trade with other members of your community. Sharing seeds with neighbors enhances the whole community's biodiversity and creates resilience with locally adapted plants.
Which Seeds Should I Save?
A healthy survival garden contains not only vegetables but also flowers and herbs. Flowers and herbs serve some valuable functions in your garden. They attract pollinators and can deter unwanted pests in the garden. They can provide flavor and medicinal benefits as well.
How to Harvest and Store Seeds
You’ll want to make sure you are starting with non-hybrid, open-pollinated heirloom seed varieties. These types of plants will always breed true (produce the same variety as the parent plant) when replanted.
In a previous blog post, we discussed how to harvest and save your vegetable seeds. Flower and herb seeds are among the easiest to harvest and store. It’s as simple as allowing the plants to bloom and letting those blooms wilt and dry on the plant. When the blooms have dried and even the stems look dry and brown, use clean pruning shears to remove the blooms from the plant.
Flower seeds are more delicate than vegetable seeds since the seeds are often parts of the flower itself rather than inside a fruit that you pop open. For delicate flowers or flowers with small seeds like poppies, you can simply cut the blossom from the stem into a paper bag and shake out the seeds. In flowers with larger seeds like zinnias, the seeds may be attached to the base of the petals, which you can pull off to harvest the seeds. For other flowers, like sunflowers, you may need to rub the flower head to release the seeds.
Before storing your seeds, be sure to allow your seeds to become fully dry. Keeping them in a paper bag for a couple of weeks before sorting them for final storage will do the trick. You’ll want to separate the mature seeds from any petals or chaff if possible. Mature seeds tend to be plumper and darker than the others. Store the seeds in a dark, dry place. Annual flower and herb seeds are best used the following year, but if stored properly can be planted several years later.
Creating a seed vault of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds is a gift to yourself and the future. By learning to harvest and store your seeds you know you will be able to plant a sustainable garden far into the future.