Don’t just harvest your vegetables, harvest their seed too!
This is a time when more and more people are seeking to make the most from their vegetable patch. To reduce visits to the supermarket think of making the vegetable patch sustainable.
Although some packet seeds are still available, think about harvesting the seeds of your herbs and vegetables for sowing on and growing the next crop.
Here are Some Tips on Collecting and Growing Herb and Vegetable Seeds
Check Your Herb and Vegetable Varieties
Most of the seeds collected from your herbs and vegetables can be kept and planted to give you your next crop, but not all. Hybrid varieties may not breed true, that is, the seeds may produce plants much less vigorous that their parent. Check the packet of seed that your herbs and vegetables have been grown from. Or if you don’t have the packet, check on the McGregor’s Seeds section of the website.
1. Check to make sure the plant you are collecting from is a standard (non-hybrid) or a hybrid that is known to breed true.
2. If you have grown more than one variety of the same vegetable they may have cross pollinated and the seeds will be hybrid and may not be viable.
3. Many vegetable plants are biennial (including root crops, cabbages, parsley and brussels sprouts) which means they produce their seeds the second year. These are probably more easily grown from newly purchased seeds.
Beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, and cauliflower, are among the easiest to save because they are self-pollinating and you don’t need special knowledge to be reasonably sure that they will grow true-to-type.
If you are still not sure of the viability of seeds from your herbs and vegetables, why not give them a go?
Collecting and Saving Seeds
Collect seeds from the most vigorous and healthy of your plants.
Fleshy vegetables such as tomatoes, squash and melons should be picked when they are fully ripe which is when the seeds are mature. Scoop out the seeds and remove as much flesh as possible then spread them out somewhere dry and well ventilated.
Beans and peas should be left on the plants until the pods are dry and ready to crack open.
Most other types of seed may be gathered when the fruit or vegetables are fully formed and hard.
Save the seeds in envelopes or jars labelled clearly with the seed type (vegetable and variety collected from) and the date collected/stored. These should be kept somewhere cool and dry. If using jars, ensure the jar is completely dry and add a silica-gel desiccant pack or a spoonful of dried milk powder. This will keep the seeds dry and stop them rotting or germinating.
Vegetables not usually grown from seeds; e.g. potatoes and onions for re-planting, may be stored in open boxes or hung in mesh bags in a place where the temperature is 3 to 10°C, and the air is not very dry.
Stored correctly most seeds will be viable for 2 years and some for up to 5 years.
Before going to all the trouble of planting your seeds it may be a good idea to test their viability. Count and place a few of the seeds on a piece of paper towel soaked in water and kept in a loosely covered glass or clear plastic container and place in a bright position. If after 7-10 days most of the seeds have germinated you can be confident to sow them out.
Enjoy your future crops.26 February 2021