I must admit that a lot of what I am accomplishing this summer is in preparation for next spring. We are expanding our garden this summer, but it will not be ready for use until next spring because I am putting a lot of work into the landscaping.
We have had a small garden for a few years and we always bought our vegetable plants and soil from the big box garden centers. With this in mind, buying vegetable plants from a store can get expensive and so can soil. To save money I started a compost pile and am now growing from seed.
In preparation for next year, I have been experimenting with seeds. I picked up a seed starter kit and started planting. The vegetables turned out so well, that we decided to take it one step further and use the seeds from these plants.
I want to mention that the first thing I learned about harvesting seeds is that you must make sure that they come from heirloom grown vegetables. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated meaning they rely on natural pollination and not genetically modified. Genetically modified seeds will not produce big healthy vegetables.
I built a free-standing raised garden bed a few years back and have tried to grow broccoli and asparagus. I did not have luck with either vegetable. In frustration, I had a packet of green bean seeds lying around that I never got to and decided, what the heck, I will just put the seeds in the box and walked away. A couple of weeks later I had green beans sprouting up out of the soil.
I still had my doubts whether building this raised garden bed was a waste of time, so I did not attend to them, I did not even water them. To my surprise, within a couple of weeks, they were growing quite well and producing green beans. I want the same green beans next year, so I am going to use the same plant.
Harvesting Green Bean Seeds
- Select the healthiest green bean plant and let the plant fully mature.
- Let the plant get yellow/brown and dried out.
- Collect the pods.
- Let them dry our further inside until the pods are paper-like.
- Store them in a cool, dry area in a sealed container.
Zucchini (Squash, Black Beauty)
Another successful vegetable we have had this year is zucchini. I started them from seed in the starter kit and they are the biggest zucchini I have ever produced. My family loves zucchini. We make zucchini bread, fries, or just slice it up and fry it in a pan with olive oil.
The seeds that I chose to grow are called “Summer Squash, Black Beauty” from Burpee. I planted the seeds in the starter kit in mid-May and had fully grown squash mid-July
Harvesting zucchini seeds:
- Pick the largest zucchini from your garden
- Cut the zucchini lengthwise
- Scoop out the seeds and the pulp, place them in a colander, and rinse off the pulp.
- Gently shake the seeds to get rid of any excess water
- Place on a paper towel, in a low humid place (I placed ours in our kitchen where the air conditioner controls the temperature) and let dry out for about a week.
- Once the seeds are dried store them in an airtight container. I am going to put mine in a mylar seed saver bag. It has two layers of protection against moisture and light. You can also put them in an envelope and then in a sealed container with a desiccant packet.
Bell Pepper (Capsicum annum)
Another successful favorite is bell peppers. My family uses bell peppers in many dishes, and it is so nice to have them fresh on hand. Again, make sure that if you are growing peppers from seeds that they are heirloom.
Harvesting seeds from a store bell pepper will not produce fruit, and if it does then they will be very tiny (I have tried, and the plant produced ridiculously small peppers).
Harvesting Bell Pepper.
- Select a pepper from the biggest, healthiest plant. Make sure the pepper is past the eating stage and the skin is a little wrinkly.
- Pick the pepper from the plant and slice it open and shake the seeds out.
- Spread them out on a sheet pan and let them dry for 1 to 2 weeks in a dark, dry location.
- After the 1 to 2-week period place them in an envelope and into a sealed container and store them in a dark, dry area until you are ready to plant them next spring.
Storing Seeds Away
The most important thing that you want to remember is to always use heirloom seeds. They will produce the best vegetables. I tried many times to plant seeds from vegetables bought at a grocery store only to be disappointed at the result.
There are certain produce that you can re-grow from a grocery store such as many types of herbs and onions, but I will be writing about that at another time.
The other important point to remember is to make sure you dry your seeds for the recommended time frame. Once they are dry you will want to place them in an airtight container and store them in a dry, dark location.
This year I am going to try mylar seed saving bags and will report next year. Try to make sure that the temperature does not change too much from season to season.
With a little time and preparation, you can have a lush garden year after year using seeds that you know will work for you. Grow as many vegetables as you can until you get the one you like the best. In the end, this will save you some money and a trip to the store.
As always let me know what you think and leave any suggestions you might have, I would really like to hear what you have to say.
Until next time happy gardening,