Seed Saving

This is a fantastic post by Heather Thorpe to help you start seed saving! 

Remember if you have any spare seeds we are more than happy to accept them for our seed bank. Please ensure they are dry, labelled and dated.You can bring excess seeds to any of our events or send them to:

Urban Farming Tasmania

There are three main points to remember when saving seed.

1)      To allow the seed to mature enough

2)      To dry it properly

3)      To store it correctly

It is soooo important to make sure that your seed is mature enough to make it viable. Seeds go through several changes during their existence. They are the plants guarantee of continuation and would normally fall to the ground at the end of the life of the plant or the end of the season. It is necessary to follow this natural pattern to have seeds that will produce new plants.

Sometimes it is impractical to leave the plants in situ as you may need that growing space. There is a way to overcome this. You dig the plant up with its roots still attached and hang it upside down under cover out of the sunlight. This allows the enzymes that complete the maturation of the plant to finish the job.

Dried Rainbow Chard Seed

Dried Rainbow Chard Seed

Silver beet Hanging to Dry

Silver beet Hanging to Dry

Red Russian Kale

Red Russian Kale

Leave the plants hanging like this until you see the pods starting to open or the seeds just come away if you rub them very lightly.

The next stage is to put the seeds into Brown paper bags, label them and hang them to dry properly. I use an indoor clothesline to do this as it is out of direct sunlight.

Seeds in Paper bags drying

Seeds in Paper bags drying

You can tell if seeds are dry enough two ways that I’m aware of. One is to snap it in half and it must actually snap. The other way is to bang it with a hammer and see if it shatters. If you don’t dry the seeds properly all you effort will be in vain and they will either sprout or go mouldy during storing.

The next stage is to do a test sow. This is very easy. Put a tissue in a saucer, put the seeds on the tissue and pour water over them. It is VERY important not to let the seeds dry out as it will halt the growing cycle and they will die. *

Put the saucer in a warm place with plenty of light. They should sprout within 14 days.

If you wish to grow them on just bury them and keep them moist.

Leave the rest of the seeds hanging in the paper bag whilst you do this.

Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds

Fennel Seeds

Fennel Seeds

Kale seed removed from pods

Kale seed removed from pods

If you have had success with your test then it’s time to store your seeds. The optimum storage in my experience is a tin with a tight fitting lid e.g. a Milo tin. I’ve had viable seed after 8 years when storing this way.


More information and resources can be found at



5 thoughts on “Seed Saving

  1. Great post there Heather. I am only just starting to save seed as this is only my second season gardening and my first with a garden space that can’t (easily) be accessed and invaded by possums. At least we all learned something from our horticulture course but I reckon you knew more than what we were taught before you started 🙂 Any spare seed would be MOST appreciated

    Fran 🙂

      • I thought I did! 😉 Maybe it went to your spam folder? I sent one after you mentioned the March event and said that people who wanted seed should fire off a missive. I remember Heather bringing seed to class way back when we were all studying horticulture together. She pretty much knew everything that they were trying to teach us anyway. I guess she just wanted her bit of paper but she shares a wealth of valuable info with us all back then and we were most grateful 🙂

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