Sharing & Saving Seeds

I’ve been puzzling over a Doodle poll with friends to get our annual seed swap and seed-ordering party scheduled. I think we finally have it, but it’s tough to bring a bunch of gardeners together, even in January.

This gathering is important to me, though. Not only do I get to see a bunch of friends and share some food and drink (some people will bring fresh or preserved garden bounty), but it’s an opportunity to find out what worked in friends’ gardens last year, and to collectively discuss what we’re going to try this year, and order as a group.

Seed Swap

And, perhaps most importantly, we get to share any seeds that we’ve saved from last year’s plants.

Many benefits

Seed saving and sharing helps me “close the loop” on my gardening a little bit.

I like to buy seeds and starts from catalogs and nurseries, but I feel better when I’m also growing some plants from seeds that came out of my own soil, or that of my friends.

In some cases, preserving seeds from your best plants will create a truly local variety, one that will respond better to our climate. Over the years, you may get bigger yields, earlier ripening, or other benefits.

Germ testing

This week I’ve been “germination testing” saved seeds from a couple of my winter squash, and I’ll offer them up to my friends. The seeds are sprouting well — 8 out of 10 in my test, which is good enough. If you want to test your seeds, here’s what you do:

  • Count out a bunch and lay them on a paper plate, then cover them with a paper towel.
  • Wet the towel and slip the plate into a plastic bag. Don’t close the bag tightly; the sprouts need air.
  • Put the bag in a consistently warm place (top of the fridge works well).
  • Monitor it for 7-10 days, adding a sprinkling of water if necessary to keep the paper evenly moist
  • Count how many seeds have sprouted.
  • Keep the test going for about 3 weeks, because some seeds germinate slowly.

Seed Sprouting

Under 50 percent germination rate means it’s time to toss out the seeds. Commercial seed comes in at 70-80 percent. Fresh seed sprouts more robustly; old seed sprouts weakly or not at all.

But before you have seed to share, you must learn how to save seeds from your vegetables. You’re in luck!

National Seed Swap Day

This Saturday, January 25, is National Seed Swap Day, and

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we’re celebrating here with a seed saving workshop, followed by a swap. It’s being hosted by the new King County Seed Library, a year-old effort hosted by the Seattle Farm Co-op. The workshop will be taught by the KCSL director Caitlin Moore.

The event starts with the workshop at 1:30 p.m. It will be held at the Good Shepherd Center, Room 202, at 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North in Seattle. It is free and open to the public, and you don’t have to bring your own seeds to participate. Children are welcome to play at the onsite Garden Art Corner.

See also

Saving Rainbow Chard Seeds

A Library That Lends Seeds

Seed Catalog Series:


One Response to “Sharing & Saving Seeds”

  1. Cindy Riskin says:

    Hi, Bill:

    Is it worth collecting Allium seeds?

    I’ve had so many different kinds of leek, onion, chives, and shallots in my garden, I now have mystery-Alliums cropping up unasked each year.

    I still use them in cooking when I’m in a pinch. I’m just uncertain which Alliums remain true to type in seed.

    Thanks, again.

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