An important element of gardening is keeping track of the vegetables that worked and those that didn’t. There are many reasons why some vegetables may produce more than others in a garden (climate, pests, soil type, etc.). For the veggies that tend to always thrive in your garden, take advantage of their success by saving their seeds.
Seed saving is easy for most plants – the secret is to mimic what happens naturally in the plant’s lifecycle.
For vegetables that fruit, the fruits will naturally ripen and fall to the ground, leaving their seeds to germinate next year. To save these seeds, wait until the best fruit is ripe and then harvest it and scoop out the seeds. Rinse them in a colander to remove pulp (or anything that could retain moisture) and then lay them out to dry on a paper towel.
Here are a couple exceptions:
- For tomatoes and cucumbers, I take the extra step of fermenting them. This involves scooping the seeds and pulp into a glass of room temperature water, loosely covering it with plastic wrap, and poking a few small holes into the plastic to allow some air flow. After about 7 days, the viable tomato seeds will sink to the bottom of the glass and a congealed layer will appear at the waterline. At this point, scoop and throw out the congealed layer and any unviable seeds that floated to the top, rinse the remaining contents in a colander, and repeat the drying steps in the paragraph above.
- For beans and peas, leave some of the seed pods on the plant and let them dry out. Once the plant is mostly dried up, cut the bottom of the stem (leaving the roots in the soil) and hang the plants upside down to enable it to send every last nutrient to the seeds. After a few days, once everything is fully dried up, remove the seeds from the pods and save them.
For vegetables that flower but do not produce a fruit (e.g., lettuce, kale or cut flowers), allow one or two plants to bolt (produce flowers) and then let the flowers mature and dry on the plant before picking them. The seeds can then be obtained by rubbing the flower in the palms of your hands to separate the seeds from the chaff and then pick out the seeds.
The next step in seed-saving is storing the seeds. For this stage, recall what causes most seeds to germinate – warmth, moisture and occasionally light. To store your seeds, simply do the opposite of this – that is, place them in a cool, dry and dark place such as a refrigerator.