One good way to really save the budget is to plan ahead and make use of this year’s vegetables, flowers and other plant life you have growing in the garden for next year’s crop. If you’ve tried saving seeds from your garden in the past and didn’t have much luck with them germinating in the Spring, chances are you didn’t overwinter them in the environment they needed.
Storing in optimum conditions can keep most varieties viable for several years, following the steps below can increase the chances of a good germination rate for next season.
- After collecting them from the garden (from herbs, vegetables and flowers), dry them at room temperature on racks or on large sheets of parchment paper for about a week to ensure they hold no moisture.
- After drying, separate them from their pods or flower heads by shaking them into large paper bags. Sift out the bits of dried debris then pour seeds into recycled paper envelopes or print off some packets. Mark on the packaging the type of plant and the date they were harvested.
- Next take a kleenex tissue and pour about 1 tablespoon of powdered dry milk in the center, fold the tissue up so you have a little packet, place this in the bottom of a clean glass jar (or metal tin). The powdered milk will act as a desiccant inside the jar and work to absorb moisture and help provide a dry environment.
- Next fill the jar with your packets and seal the container shut.
- Place the jar in a cool dark place to keep the seeds dormant, the back of the refrigerator is an ideal location.
- Do your collecting when it’s dry and sunny several hours after the morning dew has disappeared (early afternoon), the less moisture the better.
- Choose specimens from your best performing plants, the strongest, healthiest ones.
- Once you’ve harvested them, avoid storing in a humid room while they’re drying at room temperature (even the kitchen can be too humid because of the cooking activity).
- If you have long winters and they will be stored for several months, replace the dried milk packet once or twice with a fresh packet.
Easy Trick For Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a little fussier since best germination results require first fermenting the “pulp” to break down the outer gel coating around the seeds. Here’s a neat trick that skips all that hassle…
- Line a plate with a sheet of paper towel.
- Scrape out the inside of a healthy tomato…the pulpy, goopy part and arrange/smear on the towel.
- With your fingers, spread the seeds out so they aren’t all on top of each other (about an inch or so apart).
- Let this dry (uncovered) then fold it up and store away (make sure to attach notes so you know the variety of tomato and date).
- In the Spring you can bury the whole sheet of paper towel (unfold it first) or if you just want a couple plants, cut out tabs (with a seed or two on each piece) and arrange in soil. When starting them, just cover with 1/4″ of soil. Once the seedlings are a good size, replant in garden. Don’t worry about removing or peeling off the toweling, it will deteriorate in the soil.
- If you only used part of the collection, re-fold the towel and save for next Spring. This should last you a few years.