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SeedSaving Blessing Peru
Francisca Bayona Pacco, 37, is Papa Arariwa, Guardian of the Potato, Paru Paru in Pisac, Cuzco, Peru. She brings a coca leaves offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) asking protection from frost.

For some SeedSaving is a sacred event, ensuring survival, giving thanks, praying for future success. For others, these days and in times of commercial seed companies, it may be more like dancing by the light of the Harvest Moon!

SeedSaving SeedSavers Exchange - Passing on Our Garden Heritage
Founded in 1975, this non-profit organization was a pioneer in the heirloom seed movement.

In the days before seed companies, saving seeds was done without a thought, a fundamental garden practice. If you didn’t save seeds, you had none to plant the next year. If there was a weather disaster and you lost your crop, trading for seeds became vital. Seeds were traded with newcomers, travelers, and at markets. It was the earliest form of commodities trading! When people moved off farms into the cities, they still wanted to grow veggies, but didn’t have room or time to let the plants seed out. That’s when seed companies came into being in the 1860s. Today there are Seed Banks and ONLINE seed sharing to preserve our heritage seeds!

Things to know before you plant! Many plants hybridize all by themselves! Brassicas and Cucurbits – squashes, cucumbers,  have a great time in the garden cross pollinating! VARIETIES of the same plant need to be planted a mile or more apart to assure pure seed. If you don’t mind sometimes odd results, go ahead and experiment. If you give those seeds away, label them plainly for the recipient. Many Brassicas are mostly self-infertile. For seedsaving purposes they need to be planted in groups of at least 10 or more. Biennials, like Brassicas, don’t make seeds until their second year unless weather causes them to bolt prematurely in their first year.

Your SECOND HARVEST is SEEDS! In JULY you can tell which plants are your winners! It is the important time of deciding which plants are prime producers having maximum health to pass on to future generations. Some gardeners tie a bright ribbon on selected plants so they don’t accidently harvest it or pull that plant in a weed pulling or fall garden clearing frenzy! Put one ribbon near the ground, another where the fruits are. Once you have selected your Saver plants, know they will take the time it takes, depending on weather, for their seeds to fully mature and dry. Leaving your seeds on the Mother Plant ensures maximum possible nutrition is attained in the seeds.

Once your plants are selected, at a certain point, you may decide to stop watering some of them. That’s how it would be in Nature. Some seeds need to harden, so let them. I stop watering seeding cilantro. If you want more Lettuces right now, they will self seed where they stand if you keep the area where they are falling moist. Tip the plant, pull some of the seeds, let them fall, or let the birds do it for you! Or, collect them to plant later or next spring. Or do a bit of both! Read on below for how to save different kinds of seeds.

As summer, or ‘winter,’ in SoCal finish, let your very best plants produce but don’t harvest those fruits! Beans get lumpy with seeds and will dry completely. Let a cucumber yellow and dry. Let the corn cob dry and the kernels get hard. Cukes, peppers, melons, okra and squash seeds are easy to process. Just remove the seeds and let them dry. Uh, do label the drying trays! Tomatoes are a tiny bit of a process but not hard at all. See below!

Save enough seeds for your own planting, for several rounds of planting across next year’s season, for replanting when there are losses, and some to give away or share at the seed swap. Keep the local race going.

Saving Seeds is Easy!

1. Simple Gathering ~ Beets, Carrot, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Onion
Let the seeds mature and dry on the Mother plant, just like in nature, for maximum fertility. Into a bag, shake them loose or roll them between your fingers to remove them. Separate the seed from any chaff with rolling pins, sieves, colanders! After gathering your ‘dry’ seeds, let them dry some more, out of the sun. Store them, but check on them a week or two later to be sure no insects have emerged.

Seeds - Gathering Fernleaf Dill is easy!Seeds Gathering Fernleaf Dill

2. Removing from pods ~ Arugula, Basil, Beans, Broccoli, Okra, Peas, Radish is super simple! Know that Brassicas like Brocs, Kale, Cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, are Biennials and seed their second year, unless there are weather changes, hot/cold/hot, and they bolt in their first year. Then you can get seeds from them their first year.

Seeds - Remove Beans from their Pods is super simple!Fat Radish seed pods!

3. Removing & Drying – Cukes, Eggplant, Melon, Pepper, Squash, Tomatoes, Zukes. Let them mature fully on the plant so the seeds get all the nutrition they can from the Mother plant.

Cucumber Yellow, Ready for SeedSavingSeeds Remove Dry Melon

Tomatoes, a wet fruit, require a wee bit of processing and tad of time, but it’s easy! Heirlooms are true, some hybrids are true, others are unpredictable but fun. Put the little seeds in water, let sit no more than 2 days. Recent studies show tomato seed germination is best when seeds are soaked for only one to two days before they are rinsed and dried. Fermentation times longer than three days substantially lower the germination rate from 96% to only 74% on the 4th day! Word. Scrape the scum off. Rinse, add water, do it again, until you have clean seed. Dry. See all the tips and details!

Seeds Remove Process Dry Tomato

Remember! Potatoes are ‘seeds’ in themselves. Set some of your favorites aside for your next planting. When the eyes sprout, pop them in the ground. Remember to save seeds of your best herbs for scents, to ward off insects you don’t want, that you grow for medicinal purposes. Save seeds of your healthiest flower companion plants that make your garden beautiful, widen your heart, and bring pollinators.

Storage ~ Each year keep your best! Scatter some about, called broadcasting, if they would grow successfully now! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s better than ever plantings. Airtight Canisters, Jars, Plastic Containers, Baggies. Or in envelopes just like at your nursery. Out of the light. Freeze if you want. Label them with their name/variety, date/year harvested, where collected, any important notes.

Some seeds ‘store’ and grow all by themselves and we’re not talking bird drop volunteers! BreadSeed Poppies are an example! Broadcast them if you will, or let Nature do that by letting your dead plant fall to the ground letting the seeds spill from the dry pods! In spite of being the tiniest seed, they survive until just the right time next spring. They know the soil temp they need, the day length, moisture, and they come up right where they like it best! If you decide to ‘plant’ some, do it very early. In Santa Barbara ours start in March. Lay in your seeds at least in February. They know what to do. And they do vary per their colors, variety. Sprinkle them, where the ground might stay moist, then simply wait.

Viability Seeds vary greatly in their length of time of viability.

•The drier the seeds, the longer they will store.

•The harder the seeds, the longer they will store.

Veggie Seeds Viability varies by Years!

YOU can learn LOTS more about SeedSaving! Each year in July Seed Savers Exchange hosts an intimate gathering of leaders in the seed and garden movement at Heritage Farm in Decorah, IA.

Start a Seed Swap in Your Area! In Santa Barbara we had our 9th Annual Seed Swap in January 2017, sponsored by our local Permaculturists. If there are no Swaps where you live, if you are willing, please, please, please, contact local permaculturists, garden groups/clubs, to see about starting one!

In 1981, the nonprofit seed conservation organization Native Seed/SEARCH hosted the first national grassroots seed conference in Tucson, Arizona, to better meet the community’s need for access to quality seeds. Thirty-seven years later, ensuring community access to seeds remains a vital issue, perhaps now more than ever. In order to promote further dialog and cooperative action, in 2015 Tucson hosted the first International Seed Library Forum!

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) from the North Pole. Conservationist Cary Fowler, in association with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), started the vault to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds that are duplicate samples, or “spare” copies, of seeds held in gene banks worldwide. The seed vault is an attempt to ensure against the loss of seeds in other genebanks during large-scale regional or global crises.

Remember, your seeds are adapted to you and your locality. If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank or Seed Library! While you are there, pick up some of your favorites and some new ones to try out! Santa Barbara’s FoodBank has a Seed Library at their warehouse, and teaches recipients how to grow their own food. The seeds are free!

Unregulated Biodiversity is Key, essential, so our agriculture remains adaptable to climate change, new pests and diseases. Heirloom seeds are vital to our continued nutritious future, and for our children’s healthy futures! And, as Ashley Glenn says…gardens have potential far beyond the plants in the ground. They are ancient classrooms, innovative laboratories….

We give thanks for Plants, Seeds, Food, Beauty, and Being Here Today Together.



The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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SeedSaving Biodiversity HeritageBeautiful image from Thomas Rainer’s Landscape of Meaning Blogspot

Seed saving is really a no-nonsense game! It’s important right at home because the plant that grew best does well at your location! It’s important to our world community, as Thomas Rainer says, to preserve our garden heritage & biodiversity! Besides, it’s fun!

Did you let a couple of your carrots become full grown plants with elegant flowers that brought bees and pollinators?! If so, clip off some of those dry seeded heads, let them dry some more, then bag and tie with a ribbon to give as gifts to other gardeners! Or put the seeds in a snazzy little jar, label with year and name and tie on a ribbon! And, of course, store some for your future plantings! That plant has done well in your microclimate niche and will make tons of more healthy carrots for you! Fennel is much like carrots, and has a lovely scent. I use it to flavor my rice, and they say it aids digestion! Parsley is a biennial, seeds in its 2nd year.

Per goingtoseed.wordpress.com all Brassicas can be grown as biennials (planted in late summer and overwintered to produce seed in their second year). If you want seed the same year, the trick is planting early enough for seed to mature.

Lettuce seeds are very tiny and take some patience. Put a bag under the tufted seed heads, pull them off into the bag. Later, sit down and separate the seeds from the tufts. Don’t keep them in the heads because they can rot. Since there are so many seeds, it won’t take long to gather a year’s supply. You really need to record your lettuce types, so if you plant from 6 packs, keep those name tags! Important: some lettuce seeds are surface planted, barely patted into the soil, others need to be planted a 1/4” deep.

Onions, garlic and leek are pretty and fun! You’ll see the black seed dots all over the drying flower head. Put a bag over it, tilt down and shake it, Baby! If you want them anywhere and everywhere throughout your garden, fling a few far and wide! They will come up where and when conditions are right for them, and adorn that spot. Or simply clip off and lay a seeded head where you would like a patch to grow. The head provides natural habitat just like it does in nature, protecting the seeds and keeping them moist. Cilantro is so pretty and fragrant! I let it grow randomly, flinging some of its seeds across my garden when they start to get a bit of rose shading. As seed it is called coriander. Let it dry completely on the plant if you want to jar it for gifts or storage for cooking or future planting. And if you love basil, gather ye basil seeds! 

Arugula and other Brassicas like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower come neatly in little pointy pods!  Let them dry on the plant and they are yours! You can fling them too, but the plant has a pretty big 1 ½ to 2’ footprint and some height if you let it grow fully, plus they like a lot of water. So I’m a little more careful where I dribble those seeds. Okra comes in big fancy dress-up pods! Let them dry on the plant then, over a bag or bowl, break open the pod to collect those awesome black seeds!

Here’s a clever tip for home growers from the UK Real Seed Catalogue! Many of the brassicas (cabbages, cauliflowers etc) love to cross with each other. Right. So only let one kind flower each year: you don’t really want to end up with some sort of sprouting-cabbage, or brussels-kale. But that’s ok – the seed keeps for years and years – so you simply let only one kind of Brassica flower each year and not worry about cross pollination. You can still grow all the others – radish, Mizuna, turnips, arugula – to eat of course, just don’t let them flower.

Now if you are in a community garden or have nearby neighbors’ with flowering plants, this might not work. It is recommended to separate different varieties at least 1000 feet for satisfactory results or at least 1 mile for purity.

Let beans grow to full mature fat pods and dry on the vine for full nutrition from their mother plant. If it is July, even August, if you’re having a hot summer, tuck a few into the soil for another round.  Otherwise, pop your bean seeds out of the pod and store for next spring’s planting.
Seed Pods Brassica Immature MatureWhen are seeds mature? Seeds that dry on the vine may turn black in pods as Brassicas often do, as shown in the image. They may become brown in the air like beet or cilantro seeds. After lettuces flower they sprout little tufts. Below and attached to the tufts, are the tiny seeds, white, gray, brown or black. Be sure the seeds are dry when you pull the tufts. Bean seeds rock! They dry to many colors, some are speckled! Wet seeds are as you see them.

Dry seeds are easy to harvest, what about WET seeds, like tomatoes? No problem. Heirlooms are true, hybrids are unpredictable but fun. Put the little guys in water, let sit no more than two days. Recent studies show tomato seed germination is best when seeds are soaked for only one to two days before they are rinsed and dried. Fermentation times longer than three days substantially lower the germination rate from 96% to only 74% on the 4th day! Word. Scrape off any scum that has formed. Rinse, add water, do it again, until you have clean seed. Dry. See all the tips and details!

Other seeds, like in mature cukes, melons, peppers (different varieties need to be 500’ apart to prevent hybridizing) and squashes, are so simple. Let a cucumber yellow and dry.   Just take the seeds out of an over mature fruit, clean, rinse, and spread them in a single layer on a screen, coffee filter or piece of newspaper, or a paper plate to dry. No ceramic or plastic. You want the water to wick away. They will stick to paper towels. Use a little dishwashing soap to remove sugar from watermelon seeds.  Pepper seeds are dry when they break rather than bend.  Oh, and melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and squash need even more personal space – at least a half-mile is required to prevent hybridization.

Eggplant takes a little more work.  Wait until it’s dull and shrivels on the plant.  Cube it, mash the seeds out.  Put them in water, toss the ones that float.  Dry for 2 to 3 days, a week or more if your weather is damp.

Corn will hybridize. If you want what you want, then don’t save, buy new seed each year.  Here are some of the important details at the International Seed Saving Institute.

Know that hybrid anything will have mixed results, usually not true to the parent plants.  Just saying.

Label everything with name and year! For example, beet and chard seed are virtually indistinguishable. Arugula seeds look a lot like broc seeds. They do.

Store in airtight jars except legumes (beans & peas), which store best in breathable bags. To keep them dry, put a small cloth bag with about one-half cup dried powdered milk beneath the seed packets. Let them languish in a cool, dark, dry place like the fridge. Avoid opening the container until you are ready to plant. Check them occasionally for insect infestations. Remove seeds with bore holes and pray for the rest.

Stored seeds will retain their viability for different lengths of time depending on the type of seed, when harvested, how harvested and how you store it. You will see different lengths of time online. Here is a general guide:

Veggie Seeds Viability varies by Years!

May you and your plants be happy and your seeds very healthy!

7.22.16 Updated



The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Back to top

Read Full Post »

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