Saving seeds

saving seeds

Here’s something fun to do: if you have grown legumes— like pole beans or sweet peas—you can save the seeds and plant them next year! Just cut off the pods and store them somewhere cool and dry until they dry out. Then, pop them open and shake out the seeds (the beans or peas). Keep these in a cool, dry location for the winter, then plant them next spring to enjoy free vegetables!

There are plenty of vegetables and flowers with seeds that you can save to plant the next year. Peas, beans, lettuce, parsley, peppers, marigolds, calendula, cosmos, dill and fennel have seeds that are usually true to type and easy to save. When choosing seeds to save, ensure that you select plants that have been healthy and productive – you don’t want to save the seeds of a weak plant that has not thrived, after all. Dry the seeds very well before storing them, and use them the next year, as some seeds have a very short shelf-life.

The seeds of tomatoes, cucumbers and some melons, need to be cleaned of all pulp by soaking them in water for a few days before washing and drying them for use the next year. They are also more complicated to save because plants can cross pollinate if you or your neighbor grow more than one variety of tomato or melon, for example. A cross-pollinated seed might develop into a new, super-tasty variety of melon, but it might also be a dud, so sometimes it is better to buy seeds if you cannot be sure exactly what you are putting time and effort into growing.

Transplanting seeds

transplanting seeds

If you live in a cold climate, sometimes starting plants indoors is a good option, particularly for vegetables like tomatoes. You should start your indoor plants in a sterile, soil-free growing medium with excellent water retention (see Growing Mediums).

Indoor planting can be a little tricky. Without the right amount of light, plants become “leggy” – long and thin – which weakens them for life. Try growing them on a sunny window-sill or moving them outside as soon as they have sprouted if temperatures in your area are mild. Indoor plants are also more susceptible to “damping off,” a fungal infection that causes young plants to droop. Still, it is worth the effort to get a jump on the growing season.

Once the plants are large enough and the temperature is warm enough to consider moving them outdoors, you should start the process of “hardening off.” This means that for about two weeks before transplanting outside, you take the seedlings outdoors and put them in the sun for an hour or so. Increase the length of time the plants spend outdoors until you are ready to transplant them.

When you transplant, be very gentle with the plants to prevent transplant shock. Start by water the seedlings and the container they will be transplanted into. Preserve as much of the soil surrounding the root ball as possible, and do not bury the plants deeper than they were originally. Handle the plants only by the leaves and not by the stem.

transplanting seeds