Organic Heirloom Plants

Striving for Sustainable Agriculture

SEED SAVING: How to Grow, Collect, Clean, Dry & Store

Seed Saving

How to Grow, Collect, Dry, Clean and Store

Choosing The Right Seed For Saving

Cuke-Bushy (A Tasty Organic Heirloom)


Become a Volunteer Seed Grower and Get Free Seed!

(scroll to bottom of article and find out how!)

See us Live On TV 6 News HERE!


Heirloom Seed:


Heirloom refers to a seed which has not been bred with another heirloom to make a hybrid. If you grew an heirloom tomato Brandywine, saved and stored the seed properly and grew that seed the following season, it would grow again as a brandywine as the seed dates back to before hybridization. Just how old a cultivar has to be to be an heirloom is open to discussion. Some authorities say heirloom vegetables are those introduced before 1951, when modern plant breeders introduced the first hybrids developed from inbred lines. While there are good reasons to use 1951 as a cut-off, many heirloom gardeners focus on varieties that date from the 1920s and earlier. A few, especially those re-creating World War II Victory Gardens, add introductions from the 1920s, 1930s, and the early 1940s. While some first-rate open pollinated cultivars were introduced after 1951, few gardeners include them with the heirlooms.


Open Pollinated Seed:


When heirloom gardeners refer to open-pollination, they mean that a particular cultivar can be grown from seed and will come back "true to type." In other words, the next generation will look just like its parent. Heirloom gardeners are, of course, aware that the term "open- pollination" is a bit of a misnomer, because there is nothing at all open about the pollination of many heirloom vegetables. Take squash and pumpkins, for example. They cannot be left to pollinate each other willy-nilly, or the resulting offspring will be mongrels. While some may be interesting, the original type will be lost. Like the squash family, the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and their kin) also cross readily, as do several other vegetables. Gardeners who hope to save seed of such vegetables have to isolate either the plants or their flowers to prevent such unwanted crossings.


Hybrid Seed:


Hybrid seed is the result of a cross pollination between (2) heirloom or open-pollinated varieties which develop into it's own breed. Just as two parents create a child. Hybrid seed cannot be saved as it will not produce true to one or the other 'parent' seed, but rather creates a 'mutant' variety.


GMO Seed:


Genetically Modified Organisms (abbreviated GMO) is any organism that has been modified or altered by use of genetic engineering techniques. This involves taking DNA molecules from different sources, and recombining them into a molecule to make a new set of genes. Many GMO seed is also injected with the same herbicides, pesticides and chemicals gardeners and farmers use to deter insects and/or for weed control.

One health concern that seems to coincide with the GMO revolution is Morgellons disease. Originally, sufferers were told that their problem was imaginary. This was of little comfort to the people who were suffering.

Morgellons Disease sufferers report strange, fiber-like material sticking out of sores or wounds that erupt on the skin. This is accompanied by painful, intense itching, that has been described as “an ever present sensation as if something is crawling under the skin. Obviously, GMO seed cannot be saved for seed saving.



How to Grow



#1) Choose the Heirloom or Open-pollinated seed you would like to grow

#2) Prepare a soil-less seed starting mix with 1/3 peat moss and 2/3 perlite, or purchase a pre-mix seed starting mix.

#3) Choose your germination trays/pots and fill them with damp seed starting mix

#4) Sprinkle your seed as evenly spaced as possible atop your soil-less mix

#5) Take a handful of dry soil-less mix between your hands rubbing gently as you sprinkle the dry mix over the seed, covering them twice the depth of the size of the seed.

#6) Mist your newly covered seed with a spray bottle filled with filtered water

#7) Gently tamp down with you hand to ensure seed is in contact with the growing medium

#8) Cover tray/pot with a plastic dome or plastic wrap and set in a dark warm place (preferably on top of a high shelf or on a heating mat.

#9) Check your for seed germination in 2-7 days (most seed will germinate within that time)

#10) As soon as seedlings emerge, remove plastic covering and place them 2-3” below your grow lights to prevent damping off and leggy seedlings. Raise your grow lights as needed. (Adding 2 tblsps of food grade hydrogen peroxide to 5 gallons of water for bottom watering will prevent damping off and fungus.) To the same 5 gallon bucket, add ¼ cup wood ash to help with root development. You can also use rock phosphate.

#11) Foliage Mist your seedlings twice a week with a weak mixture of liquid seaweed. (This provides Nitrogen)

#12) Once seedlings have developed their true leaves (this is usually when they have grown their second set of leaves), pot them up in cells or 4” pots depending on the plant to grow on.


Making Your own Slow Release Organic Fertilizer


4 parts Green Cottenseed or guano

2 parts green sand or woodash

½ part rock phosphate

½ part lime


Use 5-6 cups slow release fertilizer per 1 yard of potting mix



Collecting Your Seed


Every seed matures at different times for it to be collected. For some, once the seed has turned a light to dark brown, it is time to collect it, such as:
Oregano, Parsley, basils, spinach, carrots, swiss chard...etc 
<<<Cut the stems up to the length of the maturing seed and place upside down in a large paper bag. Most seed will fall out and into the bottom of the bag when dry.

Other seed matures in their pods and are ready to be collected once the pod has dried on the vine, such as:
Peas, beans, lupine, butterflyweed, milkweed...etc
<<<<Place your pods in a large paper bag and set in a sunny window until seeds are thoroughly dried, remove seed from pods and store.

Some seed varieties that take 2 years to collect are:
carrots, cabbage, leeks, onions, asparagus, brussel sprouts, cauliflower...etc. Allow all brasiaces to overwinter and collect their seed heads in the spring before their pods open
<<<<Place the seed heads/stems upside down in a large paper bag and place in a sunny window untilk seed is thoroughly dried and have fallen out of their pods to the bottom of the bag.

Most all vegetable and melon type seed varieties can be collected when you harvest the ripe fruit, they are:
Peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, cukes, zuchinni
. Allow the 'fruit' to stay on the vines until they are over ripe and have developed fully mature seed<<<Scoop out seed and follow directions below.


How To Dry Your Seed


Fermentation of vegetable and melon type seeds prior to drying:


The gel sac around each tomato seed contains certain chemical compounds that inhibit germination until the tomato ripens, and may contain tomato diseases. In nature, the fruits fall off the plant and slowly rot. As they do, the natural fermentation process destroys the gel sac (including the growth inhibitors and any diseases) and allows the seeds to germinate when the right conditions are present, generally the following season. Saving tomato seeds by fermenting them is the way to mimic Mother Nature's fermentation process.


Select the tomato(es) (or other veggies)you like best (one variety at a time) and scoop out the seeds. Put the seeds in a jar or container with about twice as much water as the quantity of seeds in the jar. (e.g. 1 Tbsp seeds with 2-3 Tbsp water) Cover the container with its lid or with plastic wrap. (The cover is only so you don't have to smell the fermentation process - not a delightful experience.)

Keep the container at room temperature for several days. Put it where you'll see it and remember to stir or shake the contents twice a day. The seeds will ferment faster in a warmer room (80°F - 26°C for example) than in a cooler room (65°F- 18°C). You can often spot individual seeds moving as the "good" seeds sink to the bottom and the non-viable seeds and debris rise to the top.

In a few days, a layer of greyish-white mold forms on top of the water - a good sign. When that layer of mold covers the water's surface, fermentation is done. If you leave your seeds in the water beyond that point, they'll start to germinate, so be sure to check the jar often.


When fermentation is done, add more water to the jar - about twice what was in the jar originally. Stir the contents very well, then let the container rest for a minute or two. Separation will occur again - with the good seeds settling at the bottom and more debris rising to the top. Gently pour off the top layer - and add more water. Stir and let rest again, then pour off the top layer. Repeat this process several times until all the debris is gone and only the good clean seeds remain.


Pour the clean seeds into a strainer. Let the strainer sit for a few minutes on a dishcloth or paper towel to absorb excess water, then spread the seeds to dry on a NON-porous surface - glass, ceramic, stainless steel, etc. They'll stick to a porous surface. You can also leave the seeds in the strainer to dry. Wherever they are (in a place with good air circulation, out of direct sun), stir the seeds around once a day or so. This exposes more seed surfaces to air, for more even drying, and also prevents clumping.

The drying process takes a few days. The more humidity, the longer it takes NO cheating, please....putting seeds in a microwave or food dehydrator or oven, even at a very low temperature, saps their fertility. Not good.

To test for dryness, bend the seed. If it breaks it's dry; if it only bends, let it dry further.
When properly fermented and stored, tomato seeds can last 5-10 years. As a bonus, seeds dried in this manner germinate in just a few days, especially in the first year or 2 when they're very fresh. They diminish a bit in viability each successive year.


Solar Drying


Solar drying is the fastest and least expensive way to dry your seed uniformly!

Place seed stems in your paper bags in a sunny window on it's side. Stir contents twice daily to increase airflow. Open end of bag must be facing away from direct sun. The paper bag will absorb any moisture in the seed as the sun slowly solar dries the seed. This may take from 3 days to 2 weeks depending on the density of the seed.

For podded seed, follow the same directions as may choose to remove the seed from their pods prior to placing in your paper bags, but that is not necessary.

Once seed is thoroughly's time to separate and clean your seed for storing.



How To Clean Your Dried Seed


Cleaning your seed can be a time consuming task for some varieties, but with a little bit of practice and patience, you will have all the seed stock you wish to have for next seasons growing plans.

For most all seed collected on stems, gently shake the stems against the inside of your paper bag to loosen the seed from it's 'pods' or spent flowers. Most of your dried seed will have already loosened and fallen to the bottom of the bag.

Carefully empty the contents
of your bag (while not allowing the stems to fall out) into a large bowl. The heavier seed will fall out first followed by some dried plant debri. Find an appropriate strainer that would allow the seed to fall through, but not the larger plant debri. Repeat these steps until you have all seed separated from the plant debri. A finer strainer may be needed to separate the 'dust' debri from the seed which will strain out the smaller particles from the seed.

You can now place your seed in a well marked plastic or glass container. Do not use paper products to store your seed in as many rodents and insects will compromise your seed and dine on it for their winter food.

For podded seed, simply remove the seeds from their pods if they haven't already fallen out to the bottom of the bag...follow the same steps to further clean your seed if needed.


Storing Your Seed


Now that you have all of your seed properly marked with date and variety in glass or plastic them in a dark container such as a large cardboard box or a plastic tub with lid. If you are using a large plastic want to be sure to line it with newspaper so the contents remain in the dark. On old large cooler with lid works well too. Seed exposed to light makes your seed less viable. Place your container in a cool dark place such as a basement or dark corner of a garage until you are ready to plant the following year.



About Our “Need For Seed” Program


Help us help you and your neighbors become sustainable! Our NON-GMO Organic Heirloom Seed is part of a HUGE NON-PROFIT effort for the 'NEED FOR SEED' Program. Your purchase helps us to donate 100's and even thousands of seed packets to families across the U.S. and locally who can not otherwise afford to purchase Organic Heirloom seed which is needed to help feed their families and become sustainable.

In return for your support, we offer you Our NON GMO Organic Heirloom Seed at lowest price possible. Make your seed purchase count by choosing our Organic Heirloom Seed and support the 'NEED FOR SEED' Program today with your purchase!

Find all of our available NON-GMO Organic Heirloom Seed HERE.

Our Heirloom Seed is Naturally Grown using 100% Organic Practices free of all chemicals and pesticides.
Growing right with
Organically Grown Heirloom seed ensures your health and sustainability through generations to come...without it, the human race will not survive!

We raise over 80,000 Organic Heirloom Plants each and every year. Our Heirloom seed is highly acclimated to cold Northern temps and their rate of survival is far superior to that of any hybrid or GMO seed which cannot be manipulated to colder climates without radiation, chemcial and herbicidal applications and gene manipulation.

 Starting with the RIGHT heirloom seed is the very key to Organic growing, your health and sustainability!


Volunteers Needed!

As an on-site volunteer: Organic Heirloom Plants is currently looking for volunteers to help us seed, plant, grow, raise, collect and package seed for the “Need for Seed” Program. In exchange for your efforts, you will receive seed packets of your choice for this seasons (or the next) growing efforts and/or fresh produce and plants when available. Volunteers will learn hands on experience on how to grow Organically, How to plant with companion plants for optimal plant health...disease and pest free! You will also learn how and when to collect the seed needed for the program and have hands on experience on how to dry and clean the seed for storing. It takes 100's of hours of effort to grow seed crops for the program which helps so many people become sustainable.


As a volunteer seed grower: All Volunteer seed growers for the “Need For Seed” program will receive free seed in which to grow for the “Need for Seed Program” ½ of the crops must be saved for the program while the other ½ is for your own use. Organic Heirloom Plants may provide a combination of FREE seed or plants to accomplish this as there are some plants that cross pollinate. With the extension of Volunteer seed growers to the program, we will be able to provide many more varieties of Organic Heirloom Seed to the program!


Find all of our .99 cent seed packets and plants at:


Volunteer Seed Grower

Sign Up Sheet (copy, paste and e-mail this to us!)

E-mail to:





Phone: _________________________



Variety of Seed(s) You will be Growing


                             Common Name/Scientific Name-Variety/Est. # of Seed Saved

Heirloom Seed #1__________________________________________________

Heirloom Seed #2__________________________________________________

Heirloom Seed #3__________________________________________________

Heirloom Seed #4__________________________________________________

Heirloom Seed #5__________________________________________________

Heirloom Seed #6__________________________________________________


Seed Grower Duties


*All Seed MUST be Heirloom or open pollinated and grown with 100% Organic methods without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides and MUST be TRUE to their species (no hybrids).

*All Seed MUST be isolated and not cross pollinate with similar varieties/species.

*All Seed MUST be thoroughly cleaned, dried and packaged accordingly either in glass or plastic jars or sturdy plastic baggies and be ready for drop off, shipping or pickup by Oct. 1st of any year.

*A Minimum of ½ of all seed crops must be saved for the Need For Seed Program.


Seed Grower Benefits

*Seed Growers will receive FREE seed and/or plants to grow for the Need for Seed Program or can use their own Organic Heirloom Seed Varieties with the benefit of using ½ of the crop for their own use.

*Seed Growers will receive The wholesale value of all seed successfully dried and saved in equal value of seed packets for next growing season. (If your wholesale value of seed saved is worth $65, you will receive $65 in seed packets of your choice).


Seed Growing Goal

It is the goal of the Need For Seed Program to be 100% member supported/supplied and that each Volunteer Seed grower will aim to produce and save 1,000-5,000 seed from all varieties grown. There will always be crop failures and set do not worry if you do not meet this goal. All seed is appreciated and accepted!



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