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Saving Seeds, Part One: Drying Methods

As you become more self-sufficient in your prepping journey, you will probably find yourself dabbling a bit in the art of growing your own food.  You may also find yourself wanting to rely more on yourself than on seed catalogs for your gardening needs, in case these commercial seeds are somehow no longer available, too expensive, or are tainted with GMO genes you might not want to be feeding your family.

Whatever the reason, it is a good idea to learn how to save your own seeds. Following are a few guidelines to follow to reach your seed-saving goal, as well as some instructions for saving seed from some common vegetables and herbs.

Heirloom Seeds = More Consistent Results

Heirloom plants—plants that have been around for generations, generally have not been crossed with other varieties, and produce the same exact type of plant from year to year—are generally the best bet for seed saving.  If you choose to plant heirloom varieties, you can save your seeds from those plants and grow the exact same plants next year.  Keep in mind that plants of the same species but of a different variety, when grown together, may cross if they are close enough to each other in your garden.  Seeds from these plants will still produce, but the resulting vegetable may be different than what you were bargaining for.  Research each of your varieties and find out how far away to plant to greatly lessen the chance of cross-pollination.

Seeds may be saved from non-heirloom varieties, but they are not nearly as dependable as to what sort of fruit or vegetable is produced.  You may be thrilled with a certain hybrid vegetable, but the seed from this vegetable may not yield a plant with the same genes and characteristics.

Basic Drying Methods

Seeds should be stored in airtight containers in a cool dry place.  There are a myriad of methods to choose from in order to achieve the perfect dryness of your seed before storing.  I prefer paper methods of storage (envelopes, boxes, bags) rather than plastic envelopes or containers, as I live in a more humid climate and am afraid if I haven’t dried the seeds enough, I will find a container of moldy seeds in the springtime. An alternative to using paper products is to put an oxygen absorber in with your seeds to help absorb any excess moisture.

Screens And Sunshine

The simplest drying idea is to lay your prepared seeds out on screens in a sunny, warm area.  If your days are still scorching hot, it may be a good idea to place your seeds in the shade.  One of the drawbacks to this method is if you are in a windy area and you lose your seeds, or if you have small children or animals that will relocate your seeds for you.

Food Dehydrators

A food dryer such as an Excalibur will help speed up the drying process and is especially handy if you live in a particularly humid area and/or you are drying the more moist seeds that are more prone to mold before they dry. Be sure not to use too much heat when you dry your seeds or you will kill them.  A general guideline is to dry them at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for six hours or so, checking on the seeds occasionally to be sure not to overdo it.

Oven

Similar to the food dehydrators, an oven will hasten the seed drying process.  It is important to set your oven to the lowest setting possible and to crack the door, making sure the temperature does not exceed 100 degrees.  This may not work for those of you whose oven temperatures will not program that low, or if you don’t want to waste a lot of energy running an open oven all day long.

Creativity

If you want try other measures for drying your seed, you can certainly do this, too.  For instance, you may find that setting your screens near a fireplace or wood-burning stove will get you the end results you need. Or perhaps setting a screen near a heat register.  Or you may want to hang your various seedpods as decorations until springtime.  You don’t have to have fancy schmancy set-ups to dry your seed. Be creative!

Here are some of the most common plants grown in the garden and some specifics as to how to handle your viable seed from the garden to whichever drying method you choose to implement.

Not Into Seed Saving? Here’s A Backup Plan

You can purchase garden seed kits that will keep long term for use in a survival situation.  These can be good tools to keep on hand in case TSHTF and you are left wondering where your food will be coming from.  I personally find the selection in said kits to be different than what I personally would want to be planting, and lean towards saving my own seeds from favorite varieties rather than what someone else thinks is good to go into the can.  If you just want peace of mind that at least you have something on hand just in case, these might still fit the bill.

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