We’ve expanded our garden from about 170 square feet to 540 square feet! It’s been a big project but one we’re so very excited about. I can’t wait to plant out our fall seeds and seedlings.
We’ve been making the garden preparation a whole family affair. Our girls have been helping my husband build the fence, and helped me spread grass clippings to improve our soil (did you know that that’s a great soil amendment? it is!). I’ve been so proud of their hard work!
Their favorite garden task this summer has been seed saving. After our spring garden was all done, we started the work of preserving some of the seeds, and they love this job!
What is Seed Saving?
Seed saving is just as it sounds – saving seeds from the fruit and vegetables you’ve grown in your garden to be planted the next year. It’s actually pretty simple, though there are some guidelines to follow for different varieties of plants. This year the only seeds we saved were from watermelons, squash, and beans. Today I’m going to show you how my girls and I saved some bean seeds, because they are the easiest!
Why Save Seeds?
This is a hot issue right now, believe it or not. It’s a complex issue, and I could write a whole post on this topic, but I won’t do that here. If you’d like to learn more about it all, I highly recommend this documentary (I believe it’s available on Netflix too). For the purposes of this post though, my reasons for saving seeds with my kids was to teach them about the entire life-cycle of plants. So often we see seed germination science projects, or talk about gardening with our kids, and that’s all terrific! But this project shows them where the seeds come from in the first place. And my kids were absolutely fascinated with it!
How to Save Bean Seeds
Beans are probably the easiest plants to grow, and the easiest seeds to save. To begin you’ll need to plant your seeds and grow them in your garden. Simple enough, right? As you’re watching your beans grow, pay attention to which vines or bushes are the strongest and producing the best beans. Once you’ve identified one or two plants that are doing very well, leave them alone! Don’t harvest those beans, we’re going to use them for seed saving.
And now you wait. Let those beans you’ve chosen for seed saving dry up on the vine or bush. I let our beans dry until the pods were crispy and paper dry. But, if you live in an area with a lot of rain, keep a close eye on them and you may want to harvest them a bit earlier and let them finish drying indoors in a paper bag. I actually let some of these beans stay on the vine a little too long because some of the pods had opened on their own and were spilling their seed on the ground! The girls had fun hunting down those seeds though, so I’m calling it a win 😉
Once your bean pods are dry, bring them inside, crack them open, and save the seeds! Make sure to keep them sorted if you’re saving different varieties. Kids can definitely get involved with this. They love it! It’s great for fine motor skills, and it really bring the plant life cycle full circle for them. From planting the seed, growing the beans, eating the beans, and then saving some seeds to plant again. My girls are anxiously waiting to plant the seeds they harvested and saved!
Once you’ve taken out your seeds from the pods, sort them and put them in paper envelopes or small plastic bags and label them with the variety of seed and the date you harvested them. Then, keep them in a cool dry place until you’re ready to plant them. Easy peasy!
A few notes on Hybrids
There are a few guidelines to keep in mind when saving seeds. They mainly involve hybrids. If you plant a hybrid seed, it likely won’t breed true – meaning that the seed you save from those plants may or may not produce the same exact variety of plant. Also, when you’re planting your seeds, try to keep two similar varieties far apart from each other to avoid cross pollination. This will result in seeds that may produce a hybrid plant.
Now for our purposes, this was mainly an exercise for my girls to learn about seed saving and the plant life cycle. Not so I could save enough seed to plant a whole crop of beans next year. So I wasn’t too concerned with the possibilities of hybridizing the beans. I’m actually curious what may grow from some of them! But in the future, I’ll be more strict with my planting.
If you’d like to learn more about seed saving, the Organic Seed Alliance has a free eBook on the subject. I highly recommend it, especially if you have older children. It goes into detail on plant anatomy, the science of plant reproduction, soil cultivation, and it covers in much greater detail how to save seeds of all different varieties. You can download it HERE.
More Seed Saving Resources:
Lindsey is a modern homesteader and homeschooling Mama of two. Together with her family she lives in North Florida on 1/3 of an acre where they garden, raise chickens and turkeys, do lots of DIY, make a ton from scratch – and include natural learning experiences along the way. She’s passionate about simple, natural living, and shares those passions on her blog, Chickadee Homestead. Find her on Pinterest and Instagram.