Saving Dry Seeds

The most important component in successfully saving seeds is patience. If you have patience, you’re good. The rest is pretty straightforward.

Before you save any seed, however, check out my blog post on the genetic diversity needs of seeds. It’ll save you some time and heartache by steering you toward easier-to-save seed. Also, if you’re going to save seed, make sure it’s for an herb, flower or vegetable that you like and that you’ll want to grow again!

Wet vs. Dry Seeds

There are two types of seed to save: wet and dry. Wet seeds are encased in some type of pulp or gelatinous material, like a tomato seed. They require a process of drying. Dry seeds can dry right on the plant, like a sunflower seed.

The process of saving dry seeds is quicker and simpler than saving wet seeds–with the exception that you must have the patience to let the seed dry on the plant.

Examples: Sunflower and Strawflower

As I’ve hinted, the hardest part of saving dry seeds is waiting for the seed to dry on the plant. I speak from experience. When flowers in our garden wilt, I want to prune them and keep only the fresh and pretty flowers growing. But I was patient this year, and I let this sunflower sit in the garden until it looked like this:

Sunflower and sunflower seeds!

As you can see, the seeds are nearly popping out by themselves. I ended up removing them by hand and wound up with a gorgeous pile of seeds–and some other stuff.

Seeds and other stuff (not seeds)

So, I went through and filtered out the “other stuff” until I had a pretty pile of only sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds only. Also, check out the sunflower behind the tray — that’s after I removed all the seeds. It has a kind of beauty in this form as well.

Then I scooped them into a seed packet while saving about a dozen to germinate. I figure that before I give these seeds to people or spend time planting a large amount of them, I want to double-check that they’re viable.

Part of me also has a hard time believing that this whole growth-seed-growth cycle actually works. I mean, saying I can save and grow my own seed is like telling me here are some free flowers and vegetables forever.

Here’s the process again, with strawflower:

This girl is ready!
The black arrow points to the seed. The little fluffy parts combined with the seeds form a little badminton birdie, allowing them to be carried in the wind. Note: These types of seeds WILL fly away from your desk or table if it’s windy out.
Here’s another look at the “birdies.” I simply pinched this out from the center of the flower. It’s about a third of what the flower produced. It’s amazing how one flower will produce SO many seeds!

Another example: Lettuce Seeds

Here’s another fairly easy seed to collect and save: lettuce.

Lettuce flowers and seeds

When the weather warms up, lettuce tends to “bolt,” which means it stops putting energy into producing beautiful, yummy lettuce leaves and instead focuses on the next generation by making flowers and seeds.

To save lettuce seed, just wait for the flowers to produce the fluffy white parts and dry out a bit. Then, snip off a stem (or multiple stems) and shake them over a paper plate. Et voila! You now are a lettuce seed farmer.

Where to store seeds

The most important thing to know about storing seeds is that the seeds must be dry. If the seeds get moist (or start out moist if you’re saving wet seed), they’ll use the moisture to germinate, and who wants a jar of partially germinated dead seeds?

When I have a lot of seed, I use little labeled mason jars. With less seed, I put them in small paper packets. Seeds are living, respiring organisms and I try to think where would I like to live if I were a seed.

Temperature is also important. Stable and mild temps are great. I keep my seeds organized in a box (with dividers) on my home office desk. There, they get extremely consistent and comfortable temperatures and aren’t exposed to sunlight. In addition, I get to see them at work all day.

What types of seed are you saving this year? I want to know! And what other tips do you have for saving seeds?