We truly had such a great time with the Regenerative Homesteader group this past weekend. We enjoyed seeing everyone that was there. Arlo found a huge toad in the greenhouse and was just delighted to check it out! This just tickled my heart! As promised, below is the information we provided for everyone's reference.
The key to harvesting seed is to know when to harvest the seed. This usually occurs after a flowering process. This is a survival mechanism for plants. Plants produce seed so that they can continue life. Knowing when to pull the seed is the key to saving seeds. Vegetables that are self-pollinating and flower the first year of life are the easiest and most convenient way to harvest. Examples are listed below.
These can be harvested and dried the first season of planting.
Biennial plants must go through two seasons until they flower. Making harvesting these seeds more difficult. My suggestion for biennials grown above ground is to plant a few in a planter to winter over in a shed, garage, or somewhere protected from the elements that does not rise above about 45 degrees or go below freezing temperatures. You will want to cut back any leaves, and then bring the plant out again in the Spring. Once it flowers it will produce seeds which can then be harvested.
Biennial Crop Examples
Ø Brussel Sprouts
Seeds from various plants must be collected differently. For example, any seeds that are grown inside a pod or a husk should be left on the plant until it is dry then you can pull the seed out. Be sure it dries and does not rot. You can always pull the plant out and leave it in a shed or barn area until it is dried. Then once you pull the seed out set it out on a paper towel or paper bag, where it is not humid and let them dry for about a week or two. If the seed is not completely dry, mold may form potentially causing disease or killing the seed altogether.
Be sure to plant seed varieties that do not easily cross pollinate. Plant slicing tomatoes well away from cherry tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes rarely cross pollinate with other slicing tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes have a fabulous way of breeding with the slicing tomatoes. Pulling that crossed seed will produce cherry tomatoes or what is commonly referred to as a “Tommy Toe”. You will not know until the following year that this has occurred, so it is best to just keep those separate.
Only plant one Variety of each.
Vegetables that easily cross pollinate are cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, squash, corn, and melons. You will only want to plant one variety a year to avoid cross pollination or keep them far enough away from each other so that you do not have this cross pollination. These are typically wind or insect pollinated which is why it is so easy to cross varieties. Blackberries are another variety that easily pollinates. I have heard stories of farmers planting a thorn less blackberry and there is a thorn blackberry on the property if they planted it too close together the thorn less begin to grow thorns. Keep them at least 300 feet away from one another.
Mylar bags are one of the best ways for long term storage. Seeds are less likely to germinate after a couple of years. Keeping them dry and in a cool dark place is best. I have kept seeds in my closet for several years. I have actually planted seed that was five years old and still got some germination. Each year the germination rate will reduce until the seed is just no longer viable. Which is why I need an intervention on seed collection. It is so easy to just have too much seed laying around. Pull enough to plant for the next year being sure to account for a little extra, but you don’t have to pull for an entire field. You can of course pull to save for a seed swap, but choose wisely when you do this. There is nothing worse then putting in seed thinking it is one thing only to have it come up as something else.
Choose quality seed companies.
I fell for the cheap seed companies years ago, and what I found is that you get what you pay for. I tried to go cheap, but when I thought I was planting a Beefsteak variety and all I got were Cherry tomatoes, I was really upset. Gardening is a lot of work so make it count. Choose seed companies that are reputable. Ask around and get advice from other gardeners to see who they get seed from. I have had seed given to me from friends and neighbors. I got some spectacular Hatch Chili seeds from some friends from New Mexico two years ago and I was able to harvest the seed this year. We will see what it produces this year.
As such, also keep in mind when saving seeds that you choose the healthiest plant of the bunch. If you want to produce bigger peppers, then choose the biggest pepper on the plant to pull seed from. Keep in mind that genetic mutations happen naturally, so if you see this you may have a totally new variety all by mistake. I have seen this happen so many times when growing.
Lastly have fun.
Have fun with your garden. There is something so special about harvesting. Do not get too stressed as Spring is always around the corner. Enjoy gardening and it will provide many rewards for many years to come. It is a great way to share with neighbors and provide food for those who need it. There is nothing like pulling out a tomato from the garden and placing it on that sandwich with mayo, salt, pepper (and I like mine with a little garlic). I look forward to it every year and can eat them just about everyday.