Seeds are a critical part of a successful garden, as well as for the sustainability of our environment and ecosystem. They contribute valued genetic material for crop improvement, production, and conservation that are the only viable medium that is comparatively stable during long-term conservation. By growing plants and saving your own seeds, you can help to play a direct role in our food system and in having a sustainable garden for many years to come.

Generally, there are two main methods of saving seeds: the wet and the dry method. These refer to if the seeds are wet or dry when mature. Dry seeds, such as beans, onions, and basil are generally easier to harvest and typically involve drying and crumbling the seed pods or husks to separate the seeds from the chaff (outer protective casings around dry seeds). Wet seeds are found in plants like tomatoes, eggplant, and different types of squash.

Cleaning the seeds means washing the seeds and removing the pulp. Some wet seeds, like tomato seeds are best fermented for a few days before washing and drying to remove a special coating that inhibits germination. Next month in another tip, we’ll be covering how you can save your own tomato seeds to grow again for next year.

Seeds come in a wide range of shapes, colours, sizes, and textures. While usually thought of as inert and dry objects, seeds are alive, and are in fact, resting plants in an embryonic state. They carry on internal metabolic activity, absorbing moisture from the air even while dormant. They can be as small as dust motes on the wind or as large and heavy as a coconut. Seeds are amazing objects that have their own unique history and story to tell.

All seeds are created from pollinated flowers. After the flowers are fertilized, the embryo and endosperm grow with the seed coat and miniature plant structures maturing and developing inside. This process can be as quick as a few weeks with many annuals, but can take several months for things like apples, or even several years like pine trees. When the seeds are ripe, they can be carried by the wind, fall to the ground inside fleshy fruit, saved by gardeners, or transported by animals who collect the seeds and scatter and grow out new plants.

Some of the easiest seeds for beginners to get started for saving include beans, leaf lettuce, peas, peppers, tomatoes in the vegetable family. For herbs and flowers, borage, dill, parsley and sunflower are great bets that are simple and fun. We love talking about seeds so much, this is our 11th tip on it. Here’s a look at our other 10 tips on seeds.

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