3 Reasons You Should Start Saving Seeds

sunflower seeds

Many years ago I was traveling in Africa when I decided to stay in a little village in Malawi for a few months to do some volunteer work. Wandering around the hostel where I was staying, I found the remnants of a garden. The plants were dry and brown, but when I touched them they smelled unmistakably like basil. As I stroked the flowers, tiny black seeds rolled into my hands.

I couldn’t believe my luck! I used rocks to create a tiny garden beside my bamboo hut on the lake and the basil grew like mad. It was a tasty addition to the bland ingredients I could find at the market and was a cheery welcome every time I came home.

In Africa I couldn’t just run down to the store for some basil seeds. But back in the states, where there is access to a tremendous variety of seeds year-round, why would anyone save their own seeds? Here are three good reasons to become a seed saver.

    1. Maintain Control

What if something happens to the seed supply? I don’t want to be doomsday or anything, but natural and political disasters do happen. Those who control seeds control our food. By maintaining my own seed supply I am not dependent on anyone else for my food.

Many seed companies are owned by big agro-chemical corporations. These corporations maintain a homogenized seed supply that doesn’t take into account very varied growing conditions of our nation and our world. By saving seeds from the plants that do the best in my garden, I can develop strains that are superior for my conditions.

The corporations are also slowly reducing the variety of seeds they offer in the name of “streamlining.” Every year it becomes more difficult to find my favorite varieties of vegetables in the catalogues. Even more alarming, the seed companies often drop the open-pollinated varieties in favor of hybrid varieties because they are more expensive and you can’t save those seeds so they end up making more money.

saving squash seeds

     2. Get More From Your Garden

Seeds are an additional yield from my garden. For very little effort I can have a giant bag of seeds. I trade them with other gardeners and get different seeds in exchange. I gift them to my friends and neighbors, perhaps even encouraging them to grow a garden. I give them to my students as a perk for taking my class.

While a $3 seed packet might not seem like much, I am always surprised at how fast they add up. Before I know it, I’m $60 in. By saving even just a few types of seeds a year, I can build up a seed supply that can save a lot of money.

        3. Learn More 

When I save seeds, I follow a plant through an entire lifecycle. As a food gardener I harvest many of my vegetables before they even flower. I don’t usually see how a plant changes when it goes to flower and then to seed. By seeing the full lifecycle I can recognize the signs of bolting better, recognize the similarities between families, and generally have a much better understanding of my plants and what they are trying to do.

teaching seed saving

If the previous caretaker of that garden in Africa had been too fastidious, he or she would have ripped out the plants after they flowered and started over again. In a small garden with a short season, it is easy to be over-anxious in replacing plants that no longer give us food. But we can also leave a few plants to complete the lifecycle and replant the rest.

While it might seem daunting to learn about saving seeds, start with some of the easiest ones like arugula, basil, and cilantro. Learn how to save just one or two additional crops per year. Soon you will have a diverse stash and wealth of potential!

tomatillo seeds

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