Experience the many benefits of seed saving

Seed saving can be fun, profitable and can create community and pass down stories from generation to generation.

Heirloom bean seeds Photo credit: Abby Harper
Heirloom bean seeds Photo credit: Abby Harper

The practice of saving seeds from your garden has been going on since the dawn of agriculture. Many gardeners may have accidentally saved seeds, allowing ripe fruits to drop, sprouting into rogue plants the following year. However, intentionally saving seeds from season to season has many benefits for gardeners and is fairly easy to do.

Instead of purchasing seeds every year from seed catalogues and companies, saving seeds allows growers to be self-sufficient in growing their own seed stock. Additionally, saving seeds from year to year can help adapt varieties better to the climate you live in, rather than purchasing from a seed grower who may cultivate varieties for a significantly different climate.

Saving seeds allows you to select for particular characteristics you might like to cultivate by selecting fruits or plants to harvest from with those same traits. You can choose the best tasting, largest, earliest ripening fruits to save from that would ensure these same qualities in the next generation. You can also choose plants that can show greater disease resistance, stronger structure or are the most productive.

When saving seeds, it’s important to follow proper protocols for each variety of seed. Annual, open-pollinated crops like beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro are some of the easiest to start. The saved seeds need to be stored in a dark, cool, dry location and used within one to two years to ensure good germination. Michigan State University Extension can support gardeners with information on how to save seeds from various plants.

Perhaps the greatest benefit from seed saving is sharing with your community. Swap your favorite varieties with fellow gardeners and acquire new ones. Contribute back to a community seed library and help foster new gardeners. Saving seeds can be a way to preserve traditional varieties and with that, pass down stories and cultures for future generations.

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