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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Free Seeds for My Garden

In my garden a year ago spring, I planted Tuscan kale (Lacinato) seedlings purchased in the garden center at Fred Meyer. I paid about $2 for a 6-pack of this type of seedlings. When the kale began to go to seed this spring, I left one plant in the garden bed and pulled up the others. The plant is just now ripening the seeds that it set a month or so ago. I chose the plant that was closest to the edge of the bed and wouldn't get in the way of new plants developing by creating too much shade.

There are about 50 seed pods on the plant and each pod holds about a dozen seeds. I should harvest over 500 seeds from this one plant. Stored in a cool, airtight, and dry container, kale seeds retain a good germination rate for about 2 to 5 years, with germination dropping off after the 2nd year. Even so, I can usually count of a 30-50% germination rate with the older seeds. So, planting 3 seeds per cell will usually result in at least 1 plant per cell.

As I only need about 12 plants of this type of kale per year, and the seeds will remain viable for a max of 5 years, the greatest amount of seeds that I expect I should need of the Tuscan kale is about 150. That leaves 350 remaining seeds that I won't need for my garden from this one plant.

What's my plan for the remaining seeds? I plan on using the rest of the seeds in a couple of batches of kale micro-greens this winter, grown indoors under a light. Here's an interesting thing about seeds saved from your garden. You can use these saved seeds for growing micro-greens indoors in winter. I also plan on saving chive and green onion seeds for micro-greens. These micro-greens, along with sprouted lentils, will add freshness and texture to some of our winter meals, with very little expense.

How do I store these garden seeds? I use envelopes that come in junk mail and bills for seeds storage, then place them in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. I store these with the rest of my seeds in the refrigerator, and they seem to perform okay for me.

The seed pods don't ripen all at once but over the course of a week or two. However, it's important to get the pods off of the plants before the pods naturally explode open, scattering the seeds. So, I pick them as I see them at the ripe-enough stage (tan-colored on the outside). Even if I can't take the time to shell the pods right away, having them in an envelope indoors contains the seeds for my use later. Occasionally, as I am shelling the seeds, I will come across one or two seeds that have already begun to sprout. I carefully transplant these out to my garden and hope for a new plant this season.

There's always the risk that these were hybrid seeds and they won't grow true to the plant which they were harvested. However, I feel that with plants like kale or other leafy greens, that any version of this type of plant will work for my needs in the garden, and for growing micro-greens, the variety won't matter at all.

Do you save seeds from your garden? What's your experience been? Have you used them for more garden plants, sprouts, or micro-greens?


  1. I always save seeds from my plants. It is how I keep my garden costs so low.

  2. I was wondering. Do the sprouts take on the flavor of the plants they will be? For example, do onion sprouts taste oniony?

  3. As "Making Cents" said about keeping costs low, I do the same. I save all seeds, and have found out how to get carrot seeds and parsley seeds as well (usually produces seeds in the 2nd a couple carrots and place in fridge, then in spring, replant them, and they don't make a carrot they make the seeds on top.) I believe it is the only way to go. Also, I save seeds from veggies I buy (mini-sweet colored peppers), that way I can then stop buying them and have my own plants. Also if you buy celery, if you cut off the bottom and let it soak in water, it will root and then that can be put in the garden. ...sorry I am rambling! Lisa

  4. Hi Marybeth,
    That's awesome and inspiring. I try for one or two different types of seeds per season to collect from my plants, and gather enough for a few years. But I still have to buy a few types of seeds. You're doing great. As you point out, keeping a vegetable garden doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

  5. Hi live and learn,
    yes, the micro-greens are just baby plants, having the same flavor of the green part of the mature plants, but often milder. So, if you like onions, that's a good thing. But I seem to recall that Ward doesn't like onions. Is my memory correct? Using the chive seeds, I'll grow something that tastes like chives. If I grew micro-greens from a bulb onion's seeds, the taste would be more like green onions than the root vegetable. I don't know if that would make any difference with Ward's preferences.

  6. So many great tips, Lisa. Thank you! That's a really good one for getting carrot seeds. In my region, I can leave a carrot in the ground over winter. If we don't have too cold of a winter, then that carrot would go to seed the next year. But if a winter is like this past one, where we had a freeze that lasted for several weeks, I'm pretty sure a carrot would rot in the ground. So keeping the carrot in the fridge would ensure that I had something that would produce seeds. I started this year's parsley with seeds that I had gathered 6 years ago and they germinated well, so I was very pleased with that batch of seeds. Thanks again for all of the tips!


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