3 Reasons for Saving Vegetable Seeds
Summer is mid-way through, and while your garden is probably in full production now, it’s not long until fall comes and your vegetables start dying back. Before fall comes, you should start thinking about yet another harvest you can get from your garden. Now is the time to start saving vegetable seeds from your best producing plants to ensure the best harvests next year.
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It is so easy to just buy seeds from the store or from online shops. I do it, and I’m sure you have, too. But you can also save your own seeds. I started doing this a few years ago with some relatively easy vegetables.
I’m still learning all the ins and outs of saving vegetable seeds, but that has not stopped me from saving my own seeds.
When you save your own vegetable seeds, you take control of your garden’s future. It’s one of the best ways to increase your future harvests while decreasing your work load.
Dive into this post to learn more about why you should start saving vegetable seeds. But before you do, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet, which lists some easy-to-save vegetable seeds and some general tips, plus some resources to get you started.
1. Saving Vegetable Seeds Promotes Local Varieties of Vegetables
Today, if you walk into any grocery store in the United States, you will likely see the same general types of vegetables. Our vegetables are no longer adapted to local growing conditions, but instead to one overarching ideal of what food should look like.
In my area, here in the South Puget Sound in Washington State, people often say that corn doesn’t grow well here—there are very few commercial corn growers in this area. We just take too long to get warm in the spring, resulting in a relatively short growing season for hot loving vegetables.
But there is one variety of corn—Hooker's Sweet Indian Corn—that has been grown in this area for over 70 years. The corn stalks only grow to about 4.5 feet (1.4 meters), the ears are white when they’re good for fresh eating, and they turn a dark blue when they get older. At this blue stage, they’re good for making corn flower.
You will likely never see this type of corn at any grocery store, but it is adapted to my area’s relatively cool climate.
This variety exists because people, (in this case Ira Hooker and others before Ira,) saved seeds from the corn plants that did well in western Washington. By selecting for the plants that thrived in our climate and replanting those seeds year after year, they developed a new, locally-adapted variety.
Over the past 100 years, we have lost 75% of the genetic diversity of our vegetable crops. That means that chances are, all the vegetables we’re growing were specially adapted to grow well someplace else. But saving vegetable seeds is a way to increase the diversity of vegetable crops by creating locally-adapted vegetables.
These new varieties may look different than the ones in the stores, but they will grow better, produce more harvests, and likely even be more nutritious.
2. Saving Vegetable Seeds Saves You Time and Money
Buying vegetable seeds is cheaper than buying individual plants, but it still isn’t cheap. You can easily spend $100+ USD getting seeds for a modest vegetable garden.
But saving vegetable seeds is basically free.
I consider the seeds I buy from the seed companies to be a long-term investment. I bought a bunch of snap pea seeds last winter. As the peas grew, I picked out the best pea plants and left them to mature and dry.
Now I have a container filled with pea seeds that I’ll be planting next year. My initial investment has paid off, and from here on out, I should never have to buy pea seeds unless I want to introduce new varieties to try out.
Saving vegetable seeds can also save you time. The plants you grow from the seeds you save will become more resilient over time as they adapt to your local conditions.
This means less watering, and you can use more passive methods of soil building like mulching and chop-and-drop as opposed to adding fertilizer.
All of this will mean less work and better harvests.
3. Saving Vegetable Seeds Builds a Legacy
If you look through heirloom seed catalogues, you’ll often read in the descriptions about particular varieties being passed down over generations in a single family.
It sounds almost eccentric, but in fact it used to be normal for families to save seeds each year from their vegetable gardens and then pass those seeds on to their kids and their community.
Saving vegetable seeds is a great way to pass on a living legacy to your family and community. When you do this, you’ll be giving your descendants a gift of life. I can’t imagine a better legacy to leave behind.
You and I may have to essentially start from scratch in our seed saving efforts. But if we save our own vegetable seeds year after year, we’ll be developing new, locally-adapted vegetable varieties.
By passing on these new varieties, those that come after us will have a jump start on their own seed saving efforts.
Getting Started with Saving Seeds
Are you ready to start saving your own vegetable seeds? Saving vegetable seeds is one of the best long-term investments you can make for your garden’s future productivity.
But how do you get started?
The first step is to pick 1 to 2 vegetables to focus on. Some, like peas, are relatively easy to save seeds from, but others can be more challenging.
I highly recommend picking up the book Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth. This book provides a valuable introduction to this incredible lost art. In the book you will find specific instructions for saving seeds for 155 different vegetables including several perennial vegetables!
If you are serious about saving vegetable seeds then make sure you buy this book or find it at your local library.
In my garden I started with peas and beans, since these are large seeds that are easy to save, and they store well.
But one way I also like to save seeds is to let nature do the seed-saving by relying on self-seeding vegetables. Lettuce is a great example—once it gets hot, your lettuce will start to bolt (go to seed). You could pull these plants out or you could let them go to seed and enjoy the abundance of volunteer lettuce plants next spring.
I remove the lettuce plants that bolt early, and only let the late bolters go to seed. This way, I’m slowly selecting for lettuce plants that are more tolerant to heat, which will extend my future lettuce harvests.
So are you ready to start saving your own seeds? Before you go, make sure to grab your free, print-friendly cheat-sheet, which lists some easy-to-save vegetable seeds and some general tips, plus some resources to get you started.
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