FEATURE: Seed Saving 101

Saving your own seed is a fun, economical way to get a jump on next year’s gardening season!

Have you ever scooped pumpkin seeds before carving a jack-o-lantern?  You were halfway to “Seed Saving”, and  if you cleaned them for roasting, you were almost there!  Instead of roasting the pumpkin seeds, simply cleaning and air drying them will provide you ample seeds to grow more pumpkins next spring.  All seeds of the Cucurbitaceae family can be saved this way – squash, pumpkins, some gourds, zucchini, cucumbers, melons.  Save seeds from fruit or vegetables you grow yourself, or purchase produce from local farmers, markets or gardeners to ensure suitable seeds for your climate.

There are so many different reasons to save your own seeds – from breeding your own garden favourites to trying new farmers-market specialties, you can grow varieties you might never be able to purchase.  Cost-effective, one tomato can produce more seeds than a shopping basket full of seed packets!  Using locally-adapted seeds will increase diversity while strengthening the health of your garden.  Even if you just save seeds from just one variety you have come to love, and continue to purchase the rest of your seeds, the results are still very rewarding.

Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

garddwest's seed saving guide

  1. Only select seeds from your healthiest looking plants.
  2. When your fruit or vegetables are fully ripe, harvest and remove the seeds from inside.  Other types of seeds will dry on the plant before you harvest.
  3. Rinse and remove wet plant material from wet seeds.  Brush and remove dry plant material from dry seeds.
  4. Air dry seeds thoroughly before packing, to prevent decay.
  5. Some seeds will require specialized “stratification” before or after storing.
  6. Keep your seeds out of direct sunlight in cool, dry location.
    (average shelf life: 2-3 years)

*** please note: these are broad, basic instructions to get you started.  Certain types of seed require specific seed saving techniques – further research may be required.

Butterfly Gardens – 5 PLANT RECIPE

This “recipe” for a Butterfly Banquet comes to us from an excellent book I recently checked out of the Hamilton Library: Five-Plant Gardens (635.932 OND) by Nancy J Ondra, garden writer and editor as well as the former owner and operator of a small rare-plant nursery.  Artfully arranged with a wide variety of vibrant planting layouts there is sure to be a Five-Plant Garden for any taste.  The beautiful Butterfly Banquet below, is only one of 52 captivating gardens in this book, suitable for sun or shade and a range of soils.  Check it out from your local library or independent bookstore for simple to follow perennial garden “recipes” with easy planting tips, as well as a detailed “shopping list” and design for the Butterfly Banquet below!

Butterfly Banquet
(full sun to partial shade)

Five-Plant Gardens by Nancy J. Ondra

  • SWAMP MILKWEED – Asclepias incarnata 
    OR:  BEE BALM – Monarda ‘Marshall’s Delight’
    OR:  JOE PYE WEED – Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’
  • CONEFLOWER – Echinacea purpurea ‘Little Swan’ 
    OR: PHLOX – Phlox paniculata ‘David’ 
    OR: TURTLEHEAD – Chelone glabra ‘Black Ace’ 
  • RUSSIAN SAGE – Perovskia x ‘Little Spire’
    OR: GLOBE THISTLE – Echinops ritro ‘Longwood Blue’ 
    OR: BLUEBEARD – Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Blue Mist’ 
  • YARROW – Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’
    OR: GLORIOSA DAISY – Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’ 
    OR: SHASTA DAISY – Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Sonnenschein’ 
  • PINCUSHION FLOWER – Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’ 
    OR: CATMINT – Nepeta faassenii ‘Kit Kat’ 
    OR: ENGLISH LAVENDER – Lavandula angustifolia