Home gardeners understand that growing your own fruits and vegetables comes with variety of benefits including buying less from the grocery store, knowing exactly where your food came from and generally being a little more self-sufficient. A great way to become an even more self-sufficient gardener is to consider saving your own seeds. By doing so you’ll spend less money on seeds in the future, have access to the exact seeds you want to grow and help maintain the genetic diversity of heirloom plants.
According to the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, the world’s largest plant conservation project, roughly a quarter of all plant species – 60,000 to 100,000 – are threatened with extinction. Additionally, we grow significantly fewer types of plants for food than we did even a century ago. For example, at the turn of the twentieth century, 408 tomato varieties were sold in the United States. Now, only 80 of those varieties are preserved by the USDA.
The reason this is significant is because over time, plants adapt to certain environments and their genes reflect those adaptions. The fewer types of plants we grow, the less genetic diversity our plants have, making them more susceptible to changes in climate and other potential threats.
By saving seeds from plants in your garden, growing them year after year and sharing those seeds, you are helping maintain our garden heritage, according to Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit seed preservation and production organization in Decorah, Iowa.
We spoke with Jennifer Zoch, a seed technician at Seed Savers Exchange, about how gardeners can start saving seeds at home, and she helped us break the process down into some simple steps you can take to get started. Read on to find out how you can become a seed saver.