Tuesday, March 13, 2012


And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see - or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.
Alice Walker

Why not consider saving seeds from your home garden this year? It saves you money and assures the purity of your seeds. 

I have been saving seeds for most of the past twenty years. I regard this as a very short time span compared to some of the long-time gardeners that I have met along my gardening path. 

I really think my interest in seeds all started from observing my garden compost pile. I realized that the tomato and squash plants that I had thrown in my compost in the fall were sprouting  new plants in the spring. 

My next step was to try and reproduce what my compost could accomplish with no help from me. I befriended an old time gardener that shared his seed saving methods with me. 

So this is how my seed bank all started. By observing, sharing, and being aware of how plants take care of their own seeds. 

Above are some seeds that I have bottled up -- some have been bottled for several years other are fresh seeds collected from my garden this past fall.

Seeds inside jalapeno
Photo Credit: Wikipilpinas

The seed saving process usually starts when the plants produce their seeds, at the end of their growing season.  

Collecting seeds from your garden plants is easy. When I collect them I clean away any extraneous plant material from the seed. I then dry them out on a flat tray, not touching each other -- and eventually after about a month -- put them in a container. 

The containers I have used are either old tins that have tight covers or bottles like the ones above. Many times I put dried seeds in plain white envelopes, seal, write the name of the variety on the outside, then tuck several envelopes of different seeds in a large tin container with a tight lid. I then store them in a cool, dark closet until the next planting season. 

Hill Gardens of Maine offers a comprehensive list of  of seed viability.

Here is how I test for seeds viability. It is the standard test for home gardeners. --- 

-Count out a number of seeds. I use 5 if I only have a few, 10 if I have plenty.

-Moisten a piece of paper towel and fold into fourths.

-Open the paper towel in half and place your seeds neatly on towel.

-Place moistened towel into a plastic bag. Seal the bag.

-Label the plastic bag with date and name of seed variety.

-Place sealed bag in a warm area like the top of your refrigerator,

-Check seeds after 24 and then 48 hours. Count how many seeds have germinated.

-I usually hope for at least half the seeds to germinate. I usually then put 2 seeds in each garden  planting space. 

I suggest gathering seeds from the healthiest looking plants.  

Germinated seed
Photo Credit: Integrated Crop Management

If you would like more information on seed saving I  recommend the following books:

Seed to Seed by Ernest Ashworth, Kent Whealy, Suzanne Ashworth.

The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds by Robert Gough.


  1. Thanks for sharing this info on seeds. I've been thinking of saving seeds because of all the genetically modified stuff going around. Time to begin.

    1. Rubye -- Yes, I started saving seeds before the GMO scare but now I surely want to eventually save all the types of plants that I grow. The trick is make sure the seeds you save are not GMO. If the seeds are marked 100% organic on the label you are assured that it contains no GMOs. Sometimes I call the seed company name on the label to answer any questions about the seeds. -- barbara

  2. I save some seeds myself. I am anxious to start planting this year. We are having an early start to spring.

    1. Michelle -- As you know spring is in full swing in KY. It does make you want to start planting. Cold crops would make a nice start right now. -- barbara

  3. I really appreciate this post. I am a brand new gardener and I am surprised at how much seeds cost. I want to grow my own food from my own seeds or trade seeds. Thanks!

    1. Birdie -- Yes, seeds have certainly increased in price over the last few years. Another reason to save seeds. One of the easiest flower seeds for me to save are the annuals I grow -- zinnias and cosmos. I like them as they grow well, tall, and have such a variety of color. Have fun growing and saving -- barbara

  4. Sounds like a good idea - if I had had any seeds :-)
    I enjoyed that first photo!

  5. RuneE -- Yes, I believe you are right -- barbara

  6. I remember my grandmother showing me her seed bank. My mother also kept seeds and planted a huge garden and some of her seeds came from my grandmother's.

    1. NCmountainwoman -- Did anyone keep the seeds such as you or relatives. What great memories of your grandmother and mother saving seeds. -- barbara

  7. Particularly appreciate the narrative of composting as inspiration to saving seeds. Bottle photo lovely with its unplanned, not random, arrangement.

    1. naomi -- yes, compost piles can teach us many things like turtles eat from compost piles, that you can still get good compost even if you hardly turn the pile, and eventually everything decays no matter what. thanks for the nice comment -- barbara

  8. Have you ever grown Lazy Wife Beans and if so do you know where I could buy or trade for some of the seeds? I grow Greasy Backs and would be willing to trade for some. I live in Abingdon VA in the heart of Appalachia. We have grown these for many years. Any info would be helpful.

  9. Travis -- In KY there is a man that has collected heirloom seeds most of his life. I wrote a post on FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK some time ago. You can find it at:


    You can also search for him under the name Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center.

    He has an heirloom called Lazy Wife Greasey which just might be the bean you are looking for. I have not seen him for awhile -- hope he is still collecting and selling. thanks for stopping by -- barbara