Veggie Seed Saving

It’s that time of year when we pull out the seeds and start some indoor gardening.  Even though we have snow on the ground and currently falling we have to start preparing our garden.

Currently our back garden

Wintertime in our back garden

When we (Mike) expanded our vegetable garden to 460 sq ft last year our intention was two-fold: 1) grow food so we knew where it came from 2) cut back on our grocery expenses.  The issue with the latter is that yes, we can spend less at the grocery store but we can easily see that savings go right into growing our own food.  Over the next few weeks we will share some ways we’ve been learning to keep our costs down.  It takes a little forethought- last year we learned so much we can’t wait to start this year’s garden.

How can you get seeds for free?

Seed Swap

  •  Now you will need to have some seeds of your own to swap.
  • We swap with our friends Alesandra and Steve and Molly’s Mom.
  • Here in Santa Fe we are lucky to participate in a great organization called Homegrown NM.  They host monthly potlucks.  At the potluck the gardeners put out their extra seeds on a table and take other seeds they want. It’s a great way to get varieties of plants that work in your climate.

Ask for seeds as a gift

  • Mike’s cousin sent us a variety of seeds from his farm two years ago.
  • Molly’s Mom gave us bulbs for  a birthday present one year.

Grow an extra plant and let it go to seed

  • We did this with kale, lettuce, spinach,…. One plant can yield hundreds to thousands of seeds that you can use the following year to plant or swap with someone else.  You just have to remember not to harvest everything!
Arugula flowering before it goes to seed

Arugula flowering before it goes to seed

Mike pulling kale that has gone to seed

Mike pulling the arugula after it has gone to seed

Harvest a veggie, extract and dry the seeds

  • We did this with cucumbers, squash and tomatoes.
  • Some seed companies like Monsanto genetically alter the seeds so the seeds will not propagate after the first year.
Tomatoes marked so we can pull seeds, dry and sort the different varieties

Tomatoes marked so we can pull seeds, dry and sort the different varieties

Storing Seeds over Winter

Seed storage is simple but you can screw up.

1.  Make sure they are dry before storing.

2.  Store in small containers preferably not plastic.

  • We used to store our seeds in small ziplock bags.  Moisture can get in and mold the seeds.  This year we purchased small paper envelopes from the office supply store.  The cost was $6 for 250 envelopes.
Sorting out the seeds

Sorting out the seeds

3.  Label the seeds with the name and year before you store them.

  • Although surprises can be fun it can be frustrating when you are trying to place a plant and don’t know what the little seedling is going to be!
Make sure they are all labeled

Make sure they are all labeled

4.  Store in a cool dark place.

  • We keep ours in a hutch on the front porch.  It adds to our white-trash stylin’ and is easy access.  Our fall and winters are cool enough to keep them safe.
Mike sorting and labeling the seeds

Mike sorting and labeling the seeds


This week we are participating in Frugally Sustainable  Blog Hop.  To see this and other great DIY ideas hop on over to her fabulously sustainable blog hop every Wednesday.


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  1. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Interesting article – can you guys please write more about letting plants go to seed in the future?

    • Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      No problem.  I had a computer file filled with photos of plants going to seed but just couldn’t find them.  Kale is very odd- they look like tiny stickers.

  2. Grumpyrumblings
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    We’re in a warm climate, so we do it the old-fashioned and lazy way…. sort of forget about the plants when school starts so they all go to seed and then we’re surprised by random seedlings all over the place in spring.  🙂

    • Posted January 28, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Grr….I’m jelous!
      We do have some of that.  My friend Alasandra always has lettuce coming up everywhere because she lets some of it go.

  3. Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I’m thinking carefully about what I want in our garden.  One thing I don’t want in it is our chickens!  The other day the farmer that farms organic crops in the field behind us showed up with his huge tractor to plow – it’s amazing that the ground hasn’t froze here yet.  It’s a rare thing to see a field being plowed in January in NY.

    • Posted January 28, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Wow!  I forgot you all have had a pretty mild winter.  My mom use to let her chickens free range all over her gardens.  She’d then spend the day chasing them out of areas she didn’t want them in and herding them to the places she wanted them to go!

  4. Jprewitt6
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I store my seeds in small jars. baby food jars, garlic, etc, but I store them on my mud room and the sun does come in.  Will they be OK to use?

    • Posted January 28, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Stick them in the ice box in the mud room so they stay in the dark.

  5. Steve C Haines
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    We use some leftover (after the coffee pot gave up the ghost) unbleached triangular coffee filters.  Label, fold over and masking tape; they are also absorbent for any extra moisture still in the seeds.

  6. Posted January 29, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    So interesting! Please keep posting about this. I think I feel that if I try to do this, my seeds won’t “work”. I’ve had such poor luck with regular seeds, that I figured even more DIY wouldn’t work — a strange faith in “professionals” and “companies”, I guess. Anyhow, inspired and if you want flower seeds, we have about a million hollyhock seeds of all colors.

    • Posted January 30, 2012 at 6:22 am | Permalink

      I’m having very poor luck getting flower seeds started.  I think I planted over a 100 seeds last year with very little to show for it.  Mike loves hollyhocks but can’t seem to get them established over here.  We must be in a strange micro climate where they are not happy 😕

  7. Posted January 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    This is great. Also, can I have your address? Just because when the end of the world comes, I would like to find you guys. 🙂

    I want to try doing this with my garden this year.

    • Posted January 30, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      You don’t know the can of worms you opened there!  We live an hour from Los Alamos labs.  We’ll be long gone to our cave.  
      We have an ‘out’ plan.  Planned by my father (he’s a Physicist and always has had an out plan).  We even have the iodine pills in the medicine cabinet to purify contaminated water if needed.  I know, it’s post worthy 😉

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