Give Winter Thoughts to Summer Seed Saving

Photo by dawnzy58.

This is a guest post written by Jenny. Check out her blog at

“It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s winter, and seed-saving season is over. No reason to think about it for at least another six months. Right?

Wrong. Even if you don’t have bowls of dried seeds around that still haven’t been winnowed, like me, forethought now will make this summer’s seed-saving activities much more efficient and fruitful.

Most seed catalogs have been sent out already, or if you don’t get them, the new year’s listings will be up on websites. Ordering now will get you prompt service and delivery; if you wait until March and April, the seed companies will be deluged with orders and your seeds will take much longer to get to you. So if you can, now’s the time to think about ordering. Likewise, it’s getting close to the time to plan out this year’s garden. Choosing what seeds to buy and, ideally, where in the garden they’ll go, leads directly to your later seed-saving experience.

One key item in choosing your seeds is knowing which types of seed cross and which don’t so you can plan accordingly. If you want to grow two kinds of spinach this year and save seed from both, you’ll need to either let only one go to flower at a time or plan on more effortful methods of seed-saving, such as alternate-day caging. If you want to save ten kinds of lettuce, all you really need to do is write down which one is planted where. (For caution’s sake, you may want to plant them some distance apart, too.) Once you know what your needs are, you can figure out the logistics of how to plant in order to keep your seeds pure within the space of your garden.

Also important in planning for seed-saving is knowing whether you’re buying open-pollinated or hybrid varieties. There’s no reason you can’t save seed from hybrids, but you do need to know that those seeds almost certainly won’t produce plants like their parents. If you want to try breeding a new variety of vegetable, go for it–but if you want to know exactly what you’re getting when you plant those seeds, stick with open-pollinated.

Finally, you’ll want to be prepared to keep records. Saving seeds loses some of its charm when you’ve forgotten which type of heirloom bean you planted and have to mark “Beans – white with brown spots” on every packet you keep or trade. It may not be vital until you start planting, but it’s better to be prepared with a notebook or a spreadsheet rather than having six sheets of scratch paper in your pocket on planting day, scrawled with dirt-smeared notes as you move from bed to bed.

Later in the year there will be the actual planting, the beauty of the plants as they grow and mature, and the anxiety of making sure you actually collect those seeds rather than letting the birds or the ground get them. But a little planning now will make those joys easier to come by–and may help get you through the winter doldrums, too.”

One comment on “Give Winter Thoughts to Summer Seed Saving

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    […] post a few weeks ago for Thomas at Happy Farming and completely forgot to mention it; I hereby do so. For someone who likes to write, I’ve been pretty scatterbrained about it lately. For someone […]

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