A how to guide for harvesting and saving your seeds in the fall

A Beginner’s Guide to Saving Seeds in Fall

Blooming season is coming to an end. Buds are dropping off, leaves are falling, and overnight frosts are on their way. Now’s an opportunity to package up those seeds from your garden flowers and produce before they’re all gone.

The art of seed saving is one that stands the test of time. Yet it’s all too common to run to the supermarket to get seeds for convenience. You might wonder: why bother?

Planting your own garden plant seeds is healthy for you, the environment, and your harvest

Taking seed saving into your own hands builds self-reliance and independence. If there ever is another seed shortage, you’ll have your personal supply. Saving homemade seeds also tends to be more eco-friendly and sustainable, as the seeds are not genetically modified, will adapt to your environment, be resistant to new diseases, and may produce more fruit, veggies, and flowers than store-bought varieties. You’ll also be creating heirloom plants over time to pass down to family members.

Want to start? Check out these tips and tricks for saving seeds in the fall!

Which seed types to save

Make sure you’re picking open-pollinated seeds (labeled as OP on commercial seed packets) which can adapt to local environments and are easier to manage than hybridized seeds (labeled as F1 on commercial seed packets.) You’ll also want to avoid harvesting from any diseased or blighted plants, which may lead to more problems with your next crops.

A closeup on poppy seed pods and a bowl of seeds

How to save seeds based on type

Before you start, grab a pail, some envelopes, and a pen to label and keep the seeds separated. From there, the methods you’ll use for harvesting seeds will depend on the type of crop and pollination behaviors of the plant you are collecting from. Here are some key ones to know:

Wet-Seeded Crops

Any produce that holds the seeds inside will be wet seeded, which includes tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. These take some effort to dry. Remove the seeds from fruit or flower, rinse off the residue, then lay them out on a ceramic, glass, or paper plate for a day or two. Avoid paper towels, as the seeds have a habit of sticking to them.

Dry-Seeded Crops

These crops are easy to harvest, including beans, grains, herbs, corn, and poppies. Just remove the bulb, head, or bud, then gently crush those to remove the seeds and store in a dry place.

Annuals, Biennials, and Perennials

Save seeds from annuals to start out. They need to be reseeded each year, while perennials and biennials will typically self-seed. There are many wildflowers native to North America that are annuals and easy to grow. Try growing seed paper that has some of these wildflower seeds embedded, including clarkia, black-eyed susan, and bird’s eye.

Clonal Plants

There are no seeds to harvest from clonal plants because they reproduce alone in other ways. For example, garlic, onions, and tulips use bulbs to reproduce.

Cross-Pollinating Plants

Some vegetables will cross-pollinate with each other, such as onions, cucumber, and squash. In some cases, it’s a fun experiment, in other cases, you’ll end up with crops that don’t have the characteristics you want. Keep them separated to avoid any surprises!

Seed saving envelopes opened on a wood bench with coriander and pumpkin seeds spilling out

Where to store seeds

Keeping the seeds dry is key to storing them. Any moisture that seeps onto your seeds may cause them to sprout or mold. Use envelopes, jars, and other air-tight containers to keep unwanted water out. Heat is a culprit for stunting your seeds’ growth rates, so avoid dehydrators and bright, warm areas. Your basement or cool pantry cabinets are ideal places.

Once you’ve packaged them, label your seeds with their plant type, year, and location of harvest. Some seeds will still have high germination rates in a few years, while others might not sprout after the first couple of years.

Saving the seeds from your garden is a rewarding experience. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start a collection of seed packs that you can be proud of, knowing you did all the picking and sorting to get there.

Learn more about this special paper made by Botanical PaperWorks that uses post-consumer materials and is embedded with seeds so that it will grow when planted!

You can buy seed paper sheets for eco-friendly papercraft projects from Botanical PaperWorks. We have a variety of seed options, including wildflower, herb and veggie, and over 25 seed paper colors. Join our mailing list to receive emails with freebies, projects, coupons, green living tips, and decor ideas and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest


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