Millions plant vegetable gardens each year, and why not? Gardening is not only a very soothing hobby; it also provides the gardener with an abundance of fresh, healthy vegetables. What many don’t realize is that there are countless ways to save money on gardening essentials as well.
One of the savings methods that I use to save money on plants each year is harvesting my seeds. When you consider that vegetable plants can cost as much as $9.00 each in my area, depending upon the plant and its size, harvesting your seeds just makes good sense. It’s also fairly simple to do.
The first thing to remember is that if you are going to harvest seeds, you should do so using heirloom plants that are native to your zone. I find that these are typically the best seeds to harvest because I have had better luck with native or zone-friendly heirlooms withstanding many issues that others cannot.
Aside from this, if you are interested in the nutritional value and the overall taste of your vegetables, heirlooms far outweigh hybrids in both areas. In fact, recent studies have revealed that heirloom varieties yield a great deal more nutrition than hybrid varieties. (Read more on the nutritional findings of heirlooms vs. hybrids at: Mother Earth News: Industrial Farming is Giving Us Less Nutritious Food – it’s pretty enlightening.)
To harvest your seeds, choose a ripe vegetable from one of the strongest, most well-developed plants in your garden. The seeds of tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas are harvested best in this manner. However, zucchini, squash, eggplant and cucumber seeds should actually be harvested from over-ripe vegetables in order to yield seeds that are fully formed and usable next season.
Next, cut open the vegetable carefully. Taking it slow will provide you with the most undamaged seeds. Remove the seeds carefully from the flesh of the vegetable. Keeping excess flesh on the seed can often result in slow drying and can even cause rotting if too much is present.
Once you’ve removed all of the seeds, separate them and lay them on a sheet of wax paper that is taped to a plate, unused counter space or other hard surface. Be sure to jot the name of the plant down on the wax paper. Set the plate uncovered in a cool and fairly dry area of your home or potting shed. Every day or two, turn your seeds over to ensure that they dry evenly. Once your seeds are fully dried, you can store them in a plastic baggie. Make sure that you label the baggie with the seed type and name.
You can use your seeds to start seedlings next season and skip the cost of purchasing seeds or plants to populate your garden. I typically start my seeds indoors in peat pots in early February in a warm, sunny window. I give them a bit of a jump start by placing a heating pad, set to low, underneath them.
If you’ve never tried heirloom seeds before, DirectGardening.com offers quality heirloom seeds at great prices. You can find a great variety to start your heirloom garden and then harvest the seeds for years to come!
Have you harvested your own seeds? If so, share your tips!