5 Crops to Get Started Saving Seeds

By Veralea Swayne, Educator & Garden Coordinator

Do you grow lettuce every spring and then get bummed when the plants start to bolt and the leaves get bitter?

Good news! There is more life left in that plant — you just need to imagine its use beyond your salad plate.  Did you know that you can actually let it go, watch it make a flower stalk, and before you know it – it makes seeds!  By the end of summer, you can have some seeds to save for next year, share with your gardening friends and yes, grow even more of that tasty lettuce.

The seed to be saved is obvious with fruiting crops like tomatoes and peppers, but how do you get seed from a leafy green?  How long will it take?  Do you need bees and pollinators to help in the seed saving process?  Will it matter that a bee visited your acorn squash flowers and your neighbor’s pumpkin plant flowers?

Get the answers at Tilth Alliance’s new two-part class, Getting Started With Seed Saving! You’ll learn the details of plant reproduction, when to be concerned about cross-pollination, and how to process and store your seeds. We’ll meet once in April to learn how to grow out a plant for seed and then again in October to share your experiences and get some hands-on practice threshing and winnowing seed!

To get you started, check out some quick tips and facts about five crops to get started with seed saving below.

Tomato

To save your tomato seeds, grow your tomatoes as you normally would to eat but let some of them get plenty ripe. You’ll then have to ferment the seed to get rid of the gel that surrounds them, but then you can save the seeds for next year.

Lettuce

If you let your lettuce bolt, it will start to grow flowers during the summer months. The flowers will eventually dry and create seeds that you can pop right out of the fuzzy center. There’s next year’s salad supply!

Beans

How about growing some dry soup beans or some of those beautiful runner beans?  You’ll need the entire summer for them to grow pods and then dry down.  After that, you’ll find some gorgeous dry beans inside, both for eating and saving to plant again another year.

Pumpkins

Bees sure do love those big yellow flowers on pumpkin plants!  They are an important part of pollinating squash plants but you need to pay attention to what squash plants your neighbors might be growing in their gardens. Otherwise, you might end up with a new variety of squash.

Cilantro

This can be a fussy herb if you are expecting it to produce leafy vegetation into the summer.  Know that it likes cool weather, so start some plants it in April and then let them flower and go to seed over the summer.  They can dry in your garden and those little round balls on the umbrella stems are coriander — your seed for next year.

We’ll cover these crops and the steps each one takes to save seeds at Getting Started With Seed Saving. Save seed, share with a neighbor and preserve a little genetic diversity — sign up today!

CLASS: Getting Started With Seed Saving

When: Tuesday, April 17, 6-8 p.m. and Saturday, October 6, 10 a.m.-noon.
Where: Good Shepherd Center, Seattle 98103

Part 1 features an interactive lecture and outdoor garden activity, and you will go home with seeds to grow. Part 2 will be a fun, hands-on class demonstrating various seed processing options, and you can share seeds grown by your peers.

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