Seeds are packed and ready to store for sowing. (Mary Lowther photo)

Column Dig In: The art of seed saving

If we manage our garden with a little foresight we can save money on seeds.

By Mary Lowther

If we manage our garden with a little foresight we can save money on seeds.

Annuals like tomatoes, peas, beans, and squash can be saved the same year in which they grow, even in small gardens, and these seeds can remain viable for several years if they’re kept under cold, dry conditions. I pick the best of the crop to save for seed, being careful to note the variety so I can transfer this information to the envelope or small bag I intend to store the seeds in.

Biennial crops like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and carrots need to live through a winter before they go to seed the following year, so I treat them a little differently. I still pick the best of the crop at the end of their harvest period, carefully dig them up and move them to a bed kept for the purpose of planting various crops I intend to grow out for seed. I move them because of the convenience of clearing the bed they grew in for the next crop going into that bed. This way, all the biennials I plan on saving seed for are in the same bed and won’t get dug up and composted or — god forbid — eaten inadvertently.

When the seeds dry out I store them in the envelopes or bags on which I write the variety and year then pop them into a quart-sized glass jar labelled with the date they should be sown. I use two jars for each month — one labelled for the first of the month and the second for the 15th. These jars also contain packets of leftover seeds that didn’t get sown this year, labelled with the date I bought them. I sit down with the jars and a notebook to take inventory so I’ll know what needs to be ordered when the seed catalogs come out. This method simplifies my life because I don’t have to constantly leaf through all my seeds to decide when to plant what. (My garden plan tells me “where”.)

I save desiccant packets that come in supplement containers and use these in my jars to keep the seeds dry, but one could use milk powder: layer four tissues together; heap two tablespoons of milk powder in one corner; roll up tissues; draw the long ends together and secure with a rubber band; replace after six months. Seeds will remain viable far longer when stored this way in a cold spot just above freezing. Dry, cold seeds resist fungus and disease growth or insect damage.

Apart from saving money and re-learning how to feed ourselves come the economic meltdown, saving seeds helps retain crop diversity. In 1995 Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds stated “In the past five years, over 1,000 varieties of vegetables have been lost.” The association, Seeds of Diversity, connects growers who wish to cultivate and exchange their home-grown seeds with other growers. Their members include gardeners with large plots or tiny back yards, organic farmers, scientists and horticultural historians. They grow heritage and endangered plants, following techniques to maintain the purity of the stock and trade the results with other members.

Anyone can join by contacting or calling 1-866-509-7333. Seeds of Diversity publishes three magazine issues per year with gardening advice and articles on heritage varieties.

Events: Nov. 21 — Master gardener Barb Kohlman comes to the Lake Bloomers meeting, 1 p.m. at the Anglican Church at 70 Cowichan Rd. Open to the public and it’s free.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Drivesmart column: Are slow drivers breaking the law?

When I am behind a driver that is going slower it bothers me.

Flashback: Trips around the lake, to Japan, and on a dangerous highway

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Cowichan’s 49ers just miss fourth Grover Cup

Since the 49ers were founded, the team had never lost a Tony Grover Cup final

Mary Lowther column: Contemplating the compost heap

David made me a three-bin compost system

Sarah Simpson Column: Mistakes will happen but kindness prevails

You know those jerks who always follow the trail directions wrong? I… Continue reading

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Most Read