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The Importance of Saving Seeds

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

It started because I'm cheap.

That was mostly my fault. I didn't choose a profession that made much money (teaching in a private school). I was also a single parent. So most of my adult life I had to live more modestly than most, although I'd like to think I played it off well.

I saved seeds because it was cheaper than buying baby plants; what I paid for a whole bag of seeds was the same as the cost of a young cucumber plant. And geez- why buy that pack of seeds again when I can just save the seeds from the one of the cucumbers??

Then it became a matter of choice.

Learning about patents on plants, watching documentaries about how companies were penalizing people for saving their made me mad. I've always liked a good fight, and I wanted in on the battle. Come at me, suits! I'm saving ALL my seeds just to fight The Man!

Now it's a matter of practicality. I've learned over the past 20 years of growing stuff that some varieties do better than others depending on where I live. I've fallen in love with the idea of a plant only to find that they just don't like it here. The next year I try another variety, and many times that new one does seem much better suited to the area.

When you find a good thing, you gotta stick with it. Amiright?

The muse for this blog took shape as I went on a much-needed break from my desk to walk the dogs around outside. It's hot as hell. It's also dry as can be. The grass beneath my feet is making crunching sounds I can't remember ever hearing before. I'm looking for some herbs to gather before they totally die from this drought, and noticed the Astragalus I've been growing for 2 years has seeds pods that are dried. Tons of them. I should sell these, I think to myself. I don't need them; I've got to let these plants grow a couple more years before I can harvest the roots. I have a surplus of seed.

I stuff a few dried pods in my pockets and reflect on all the times I've walked back into the house with random seeds in my pockets. All the times I've found remnants of seeds in the washing machine from my unchecked clothes. All the paper towels lying flat on my dining room table with random seeds on them- sometimes I even remember to label with a Sharpie!

I love saving seeds. I love that if I screw up, that it doesn't really matter. I have some plants that have been growing from the same original seed for 8 years. I know that they're reliable.

There are whole sections of my yard that I devote to plants solely for the purpose of saving those seeds, so that the next year I can sow a ton more, multiplying my plants. I love the stories they carry, like the Underground Railroad Tomato and the Native American Crookneck Squash. Part of the secret of the 'green thumb' is to grow things that jive with you. I don't have a particularly green thumb- I just stopped growing high maintenance plants! I save the seeds from the badass girls who are hard to kill. These are my people. But...plants.

Heirloom plants are my favorite. Sorry folks- I definitely care more about an heirloom stamp than I do about the organic one when it comes to my seed purchases. And I'll try to choose varieties that have a history of growing 'round these parts. Although, I have had suprisingly successful plants which grew from basic grocery store basil, and their seeds. I'm not too too picky.

One of the downsides of living out in the woods as opposed to a neighborhood is that I can't really do one of those seed libraries. Have you seen those? They're so cute! A little box at the end of the driveway where people can drop off and share their seeds for free? Yes, please! I love all of that. Here's what I mean.

Whatever your feelings about The Man, or resiliency, or the history of seeds happen to be, I definitely encourage you to start saving seeds. I haven't mastered it all. There are still a number of my plants that I don't actually know how to harvest the seeds from. Luckily for me and my lazy gardening, most of my plants go to seed for me, and I just need to remember where I put them and to label them correctly.

It's that time of year. Get out there and save those seeds! (if they don't suck)

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