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17 December 2008

Saving vegetable seeds - how to - 2

Well, as you can see, I didn't get back here yesterday. I had a full on day of Christmas preparations at work. Our Christmas hampers and gifts go out today and we finalised the prep for our free Christmas day breakfast for our town. All is ready, my friends, now I just need a bit of extra sleep to catch up and get back to normal. There is only one thing I really dislike about growing older, I get tired easily. :- (

There were a number of questions from the comments yesterday so I'll answer them today.

Gail: Bunnings do sell some open pollinated (OP) seedlings, but very few. If you remember the varieties you bought, google them and see if they're OP not. I think it's a good idea to swap seeds and I have no problem with those interested in swapping doing that here. We have had an OP seed swap here in the past. I'll talk to Sharon and see if she can set something up. We might be able to get a seed swap happening on the weekends. You have to be mindful that you cannot send to WA though, and I think some things can't go to Tasmania. Other countries would need to work through their own government requirements for sending seeds - some countries are strict, some aren't. Regarding diseases surviving in dried seeds the process of fermenation does kill of some diseases but others do survive. You need to select seeds from disease-free plants.

Kim, until you really know what you're doing, just plant one variety of each veggie and work up from there. Each year, add something new and it will be more manageable. When you do add more variety, add the easy ones first, like tomatoes. Tomatoes rarely cross pollinate, I've been growing beefsteak, paste and cherry tomatoes together, alongside my brandywines and they didn't cross. All I did was put them in different garden beds and they were fine.

Barbara: here is how I ferment tomato and cucumber seeds. Select a couple of your best tomatoes/cucumbers and wait until they are just past the ripe stage. Cut the tomato in two and scoop out the seeds, you'll take out the surrounding flesh when you do, that's fine. Place that in a small glass jar, add about half a cup of water, cover with a cloth to keep insects out and leave it in a warmish place in the kitchen. Depending on the warmth in your kitchen, about three or four days later, mould will develop on top of the tomato pulp. Stir with a spoon to dislodge any seeds caught in the pulp and you'll see a lot of seeds fall to the bottom of the jar. Carefully pour off the rubbish at the top without losing any seeds at the bottom. Then, when most of the pulp and mouldy flesh is gone, pour the seeds into a fine strainer and wash them gently, but thoroughly. Then tip the seeds onto a clean cloth to dry the water from them and place them on a ceramic or glass plate to dry out completely. That will depend on your conditions there but it will be between 10 - 14 days. Then add to your labelled container and put in the fridge.

Rachel: yes, you can cook the leftover beans. It's difficult to tell you how long any seeds will be viable for. It depends on the type of seeds and how well they've been stored. This is good test for seed viability - get a couple of sheets of newspaper, write the date and name of the seeds on the paper, then wet it. You want every sheet moist but not dripping wet. Sprinkle about 10 of the seeds you want to test on one side of the paper, fold in the sides and roll it up into a cigar shape. Place that into a plastic bag, along with any other cigar shapes you're testing, and seal the bag. Leave it for two days, then check. If there are no seeds sprouting, check it again in two days. If you see the seeds are sprouting, note how many sprout because that will give you a good indication of how viable the seeds are. If only a few germinate, I'd still plant your seeds but don't expect all of them to grow. If a lot of them sprout, you'll have no problems growing your plants. Be aware though that not every seed will sprout, generally expect about 80 percent success rate. If the seeds don't show any signs of life for two weeks, the seeds are probably dead. Be aware that some seeds do take a long time to sprout, so check the germination time (on Google) for the seeds your testing. And even with the best seeds and storage, you'll only get about 80 - 90 percent success anyway. Please let us know when baby arrives and take care, love.

Good luck with the laundry soap, Kathy.

Bobbi: Hanno and I had a giggle over your Mary Poppins comment. ; - )

And just a final thought for all those who are nervous about saving seeds. When you step away from the mainstream and go along this path we're all on, there aren't a lot of guideposts along the way. I've made plenty of mistakes, but it was through my biggest mistakes that I made my biggest gains, and went on to becoming quite proficient in a number of unusual tasks. So dive right in, the water's fine.

Check out Lyn's great post on pruning tomatoes here.


  1. Good morning Rhonda,

    Thanks for more info re seed saving.

    I read one day that a mistake is only a mistake if you make it twice. I liked that.

    Blessings Gail

  2. Thank you so much for answering my question, Rhonda. That explains why all my seeds I planted out didn't germinate (though a good many did). I thought I'd done something wrong in the drying process! Glad to get that cleared up. :o)
    Thanks for your help.

  3. This brought back a happy memory. Last year the Folks turned out their compost heap onto the veggie garden and worked it in. Next thing they had masses of "wild" tomato plants sprouting - the compost had done the necessary fermenting to seeds left over from their lunch tomatoes over the year - and those had been supermarket tomatoes.

    The "wild ones" were yummo too!

  4. Hi Rhonda,
    hope all is going well with you and yours..wanted to stop by and wish you all a Merry Christmas!
    have a great one!
    hugs, Tina

    p.s. we invite you to stop by and check out the new Small Town Living forums!!

  5. Thanks Rhonda. I need to be reminded every now and then not to get myself in over my head. I always try and do too much. I'm feeling a lot freer and more confident at the idea of just doing one variety of everything this year and saving the seeds from those. I think I have enough room to separate a couple varieties of tomatoes so I might do that because well... sampling tomatoes is just fun each year isn't it? Thanks for your help. I'm just starting planning for next year and will be ordering soon. I needed a gentle "don't get in over your head" reminder.

  6. Rhonda, Thank you so much for answering my question! Rachel's response was helpful as well!

  7. Just wanted to add that plants marked as hybrids or F1 hybrids will not reproduce true to type. The commonest tomato in nurseries is probably still Grosse Lisse, which is an old breed. Tomatoes and sweet corn are more commonly hybridised than other food plants.

  8. Thanks for an interesting post, I will re read this later next year.

    You have a blue and white plate like mine.

  9. I will, of course, help get a seed swap together again. I will also be announcing another "regular" swap after the first of the year. It looks like it will be a dish towel and pot holder swap, although I am wanting to also include a recipe exchange with that. Hugs to you and Hannno, and do take care Rhonda. Sharon


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