All the plants we want to save for seeds:

  • must be non-hybrid – often designated as open pollinated, – and non GMO.
  • must be properly named – ensure that the name is one which is not used only in Courtenay but in Canada generally. This may be difficult to ascertain. As a last resort simply give the common name eg. Leek. Better to name it thusly than to guess at the variety name.
  • must never be carrots –they cross easily with Queen Anne’s Lace, a common weed
  • must never be corn if it grew within 2 miles of a dairy farm where they grow GMO cow corn
  • also not any other plant which may have received pollen from similar but different varieties. See an Isolation Distance chart for all veggies. Lettuces, for example sometimes cross with other varieties so need 50’ separation from them.

When you’ve decided to save seed from a certain plant, wrap a name tag around the stem of living plant(s) and write the variety name indelibly; that tag should travel through the seed saving process with the sample. It is preferable to collect seed from several plants of the one variety, rather than just one plant so as to get some genetic diversity.

[notice]When you are drying seeds, NEVER allow any heat source above 85* degrees F (35* C) to assist the process. Unless the seeds are FULLY dried, don’t use plastic or lidded glass containers. Paper bags are fine.[/notice]

  • To be FULLY dry, seed coats must be crispy-hard, not in the slightest bit soft or soggy.
  • We want the plant to stay alive as long as possible to provide as much growth to the developing seed. Full maturity is best.



Legumes (peas/beans), tomatoes, and lettuces are all self-pollinating. They are easy to work with. Let’s start with these. Let’s add leeks because they are so easy.

LEGUMES – peas and beans – Here it’s especially important to leave the entire plant growing and drying as long as possible; preferably in the soil till the leaves are dead and the pods are crispy. If heavy rain is likely, pull the plants out by the roots and dry inverted in the garage (or bedroom?!). Shell the pods individually or put them all in a cloth sack and dance on it.

TOMATOES AND CUCUMBERS – both of these (unrelated) types of plants have gelatinous masses around the seeds which can easily be removed. Scrape the wanted mass of seeds into a glass jar, add about the same amount of water, stir to mix, then cover with fly-screening which is held in place with a rubber band. After 3-4 days bacteria and/or fungi will have acted on the “jelly” and with added water and vigorous stirring, most of the seeds will separate and drop to the bottom. Careful flooding of the uncovered jar will lift the non-seedy material over the top. Finally dump the seeds and other bits into a rice colander and flood with cold tap water. Any remaining “jelly” can be encouraged to go through the screening with fingertips. Dump the seeds onto a plastic surface (or better yet, fly-screening), dry and scrape the seeds off carefully. Dry fully.

LETTUCES – the immense stems will be topped with hundreds of pappus (fluff) tops. After removing and drying the plant completely, rub the masses of flowers between your gloved hands and each flower will give up a few torpedo shaped seeds. Larger plants parts can be separated and discarded by using fly screen. These can be mounted in a homemade foot-square wood frame. Now place the seeds and chaff in a cookie tray with a lip on the edge, and use a hairdryer, on the low-fan, non-heat setting, to carefully isolate and then collect the seeds. MUCH practice is needed here.

LEEKS – at the end of the second summer, the flower heads will be 4+” in diameter. Cut them down including 6” of stem, and store in the driest area of your home. Be sure the air moves. It will take 3 or 4 months before some of the florets will be dry enough to show shiny black seeds. Use rough-surface gloves to liberate the seeds. Toss the seeds and chaff into a large water-filled glass jar and stir maniacally. The viable seeds will drop to the bottom. Flood off the chaff and quickly dry the viable seeds on newspaper, then on screening with a fan. Each flower head can yield 1000 or more seeds.

[important]Please bring some identified, labeled seed envelopes to a seed-packing bee or to “Seedy Saturday” next year![/important]


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