Monday, October 8, 2012

DIY Seed Saving

carrot seed heads

growing veg from seeds saved from the previous years crops is an age old art. for the DIY-er its a climax in self sufficiency. its also easy to do with most veg or flowers. the trick is patience, as well as learning to let your plants go to seed rather than harvesting their crop. which at times can make a veg plot seem untended and messy. its just the natural course of a plants life and a great way to get more in touch with different plants and their life cycles.

in the not-so-distant past, commercial seeds where unavailiable to most. so every farmer knew to have enough food for the years to come - you have to save seeds from the best plants, at the end of the growing year. we can now get almost any imaginable seeds in garden centers, supermarkets, and farm supply shops. 'so why save 'em whe you can buy em ready to go?' im all for buying new seeds, its actually one of my vices, my collection expands every year and i love trying new varieties of veg. especially ones that are hard to find in shops: romanesco, heirloom tomato varieties, raddichio, coloured carrots, and painted corn.. have all joined my seed box collection recently, and these are the rare seed varieties i try and save seeds from. there is also an added benefit to saving seeds from successful crops: every year the seeds that mature and grow are more adapted to the surounding climates, so they'll grow better for you each year! so its a very handy skill, for our rainy climate.

dried carrots seeds (center, spiky) ready for storage

Saving your own seeds:
i've included pictures from two types of veg that have a slight trick to saving their seeds: tomatoes and carrots. tomato seeds need to be fermented before drying, and to get good carrots from your own seeds you need to wait till the second year of the plants lifecycle when the plants are matured.

Carrots and other biennials:
carrots are biennal plants, which means they flower in their second year, storing energy through the winter in their roots. if you save seeds from carrots that 'bolt' (or go to seed early), you will have carrots that bolt early the next time you sow them - an unwanted trait, its best to just add these plants to the compost heap. sad but true, they're not good candidates for seed saving. once your carrots have flowered and the seed heads have browned and dried a bit, snip them off the plant, place in a brown paper bag and ruff em up a bit. seeds should fall off on their own or you can pick them off. save completely dried seeds in labeled envelopes until needed for sowing.

'money maker', 'sungold' and tigerella tomato varieties

when saving seeds from tomato plants there are a few fermentation options. one being to let the fruit rot away on its own, or two, scoop outt he sees and place in a jam jar with som water and wait for mould to appear on the surface. i did the later for my tomato seeds this year. the varieties i worked with were: money maker ( a good slicing type). tigerella (striped variety) and sungold (a super sweet gold cherry type).  once your seeds have gone mouldy, strain the water out of the jam jars and place on parchment paper and dry in a sunny window

mouldy and ready to dry in a sunny window
labeled and ready for drying, give em at least a week.

legumes (peas, beans, sweetpeas, broadbeans etc) are similar to carrot seeds, you need to let the seed pods grow and brown on the plant. with legumes their large seed size makes picking out seeds that much easier, and probably the best for begining seedsavers. last year i saved sweet peas seeds because i liked the varieties unusual colouring. i'm glad  i did caise i've had hundreds of that same colour this year. see pic...

variegated sweet pea colouring with deep purples in background, seeds saved from last years plants.

once you've gotten the seed saving bug, there's you'll want some more resources to go by.
for the Irish Seed Savers website click here, they have a lot of irish varieties of plants to choose from, and if you become a supporter they will send you free seeds, and seed potatoes!

for tips on saving other varieties of veg plants here's a useful link to the Brown Envelope Seeds website, based in west cork. their seed varieties are proven to grow in the challenging west cork and greater irish climate! a great source of rare and interesting veg types.



  1. Interesting to let the tomato seeds ferment but I suppose that mimics the natural decay of the fruit.

    1. that's why, david. got loads of plants up now for the summer from those saved seeds