How-To’s of Seed Saving

When It’s Time to Return Seeds to the Seed Library.
The Exeter Area Garden Club (EAGC) and the Exeter Library would like to thank everyone who has participated in the Three Sisters Seed Library this year. The EAGC received many seed donations at the beginning of the project which allowed hundreds of people to come in and “borrow” seeds from the library shelf display. If you borrowed seeds from the library, we hope your gardens were successful and that you are now able to begin to collect some seeds to “return” them!

When returning your seeds, we ask that you please label the envelope you place them in with the following information seed type and variety (example: Tomato, Sungold), month and date harvested (example: 9/21). If you will be donating any extra seeds from packets you have purchased, please remember that they cannot be more than 2 years old. So, for seeds that will be distributed in 2022, seeds must be dated no later than 2020. By September 17th, seed envelopes will be available at the library for you to use to return your seeds.

Unfortunately, if we receive seeds without this information, we will be unable to use them and will have to discard them because we want to give next years’ gardeners the best possible seeds to use and be successful. Be sure to save some seeds for yourself for next year! Saving seeds cost-effective and it can ensure you have seeds of a variety you like for next year in case your variety is not available.

Saving seeds is very simple! The following basic guidelines will help you with your seed saving:
Proper drying is a key to saving seeds. If seeds are not thoroughly dry, or not kept in a cool dry location until time to plant next year, the seeds run the risk of becoming moldy. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this is how to determine if your seeds are dry enough to save: “Squeeze one seed with pliers or hit it with a hammer. If it’s dry, it will shatter. If it just crushes or feels soft or spongy, then your seeds still need more air-drying before being stored away.”
There are three basic methods for saving seeds:

Dry Seeds
These include peas, beans, lettuce, flowers with seed heads, or any seed that is mature when the plant is beginning to dry up. Collection of seeds from flowers varies between each type, but seeds can generally be found where the flower was after the flower is gone. Remember, flower seed heads are often food for birds, so be sure to leave a few for them!
To collect seeds from these plants, wait for the pod or seed head to become dry and brown while still on the plant. Remove dry pods/seed heads and open to remove the seeds.

Wet Seeds
These include seeds that are inside the fruit and are set in a liquid, stringy, or gelatinous substance, such as watermelon, cucumbers, squashes.
To collect seeds from these plants, collect the mature fruit or vegetable. Cut it open, scoop out the seeds, and then wash them off. Let them dry on a non-porous surface (glass, metal, plastic, etc.).

This is the best way to save tomato and cucumber seeds, because the gel around the seeds can inhibit germination. Note: cucumber seeds are ripe when the cucumber turns fully yellow, definitely overripe for eating. Harvest it and put it in a safe place for another 20 days, then collect the seeds.

Cut the tomato or cucumber, expose the seeds, and squeeze or scoop out the jelly-like substance that contains the seeds. Place the jelly in a small jar (add a little water if you’re only using saving from only one or two vegetables) and cover the container. Place in a room temperature location for about three days.

A layer of fungus will begin to form at the top of the mixture after a couple days. This fungus eats away the germination-inhibiting coat on the seeds and helps control seed-borne diseases. Watch the seeds closely–if left in the water too long, they will begin to germinate and cannot then be saved. If they begin to swell or grown tiny roots, they cannot be saved.

After about three days, fill the container with warm water and let settle. Viable seeds will sink, while immature seeds will float. Drain out the water and anything that is floating. Repeat until the water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these seeds into a strainer with holes smaller than the seeds, let the excess water drip out, and empty the seeds onto a non-porous surface to dry. Seeds should dry completely in one to three days.

Remember, seeds should only be saved from plants that are open pollinated. Cross-pollinated plants/hybrids cannot be saved because the seed will not breed true. The seeds provided by the Three Sisters Seed Library were all open-pollinated so they can be harvested and returned. Cross-pollination generally does not occur with these plants, but different varieties of these plants should still be kept separate from other similar plants. There are many YouTube videos for seed saving if you are looking for information about seed saving for a particular variety.

Thank you for participating in the Three Sisters Seed Library and helping us continue to grow!

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