As winter crops start to wrap up and produce flowers, why not collect the seed of some of your favourite crops and store it, ready for a repeat run next year? Here are some basic seed-saving tips.
- Start with easy-to-save herbs (such as basil, coriander and dill) and self-pollinating crops (peas, beans, lettuce and tomato) if you’re new to seed saving. Open-pollinated heirloom vegetable varieties are better than hybrids, as they are more likely to produce seed that is true to type.
- Choose one or two of your best-performing plants and let them set their ﬂowers, and enjoy the bees, butterﬂies and other insects they bring to your garden. If you have different varieties of the same vegetable ﬂowering at the same time, make sure there’s plenty of space between them to prevent unwanted cross pollination, otherwise the seed may not be true to type.
- Be patient. Seeing the seed set is a good sign, but it isn’t ready to harvest until the pods or seed coats are completely dry or brown. This can take many weeks. If you need to, tie the withering plant and stalks to a stake to keep developing seed off the ground. Collecting seed from wet fruit, such as tomato, is different. You cut open the mature or ripened fruit and scoop out the fleshy seed pulp, then separate and dry the seed.
- Collect the dry seeds, then dry them more if necessary, laying them out somewhere cool and dry indoors for a few days, or in a paper bag in the cupboard, until you’re ready to sort them further. Once properly dried, release the seeds from their pods and organise them into sealed, labelled containers. Seeds store well in a cool, dark cupboard, but will keep best in the fridge.
Get tips for planting tomatoes, growing a bay tree in a pot, caring for citrus trees, and growing peaches and nectarines in the July 2020 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.