Seed saving tips for heritage breeds and heirloom seeds
In late October, I participated in “Heritage Breeds & Heirloom Seeds: The Past Strengthening our Future,” a gathering of gardeners and farmers in Debert, Nova Scotia. The speakers included Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds, Greta Kryger of Greta’s Organic Gardens, Andrea Berry of Hope Seeds and Greg Wingate of Mapple Farm. I gleaned the following seed saving tips from our wide-ranging discussions on
– Janet Wallace, former editor, The Canadian Organic Grower
- Bean seeds need ‘to breathe.’ As with all seeds, keep the beans in a moisture-proof container like a glass bottle or steel canister. Once a month or so, open the container for a moment to allow for a quick air exchange.
- To save small seeds, such as many herb seeds, pick the seedheads (flowerheads) once they are mature and dry, and place in a pillow case. Shake the pillow case every few days over the course of a few weeks. After that, most of the seeds will have fallen from the heads. Use a series of sieves to separate seeds from the chaff.
- To save echinacea seeds, pick the flowerheads when they are almost completely dry and put them in the freezer for a few days. Once you remove them from the freezer, the seeds will drop out of the heads.
- When saving seeds of peas, select the seeds of highyielding plants. With peas, the quality of the seed stock declines quickly over time.
- According to a few seed savers and contrary to what most seed-saving books recommend, popcorn and sweet corn can be grown in the same field without cross-pollinating, even when they flower at the same time. (Note: other growers remain suspicious of this.)
- To remove dry corn kernels from the cobs, seed savers can use an inexpensive corn sheller available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.