Tropical Gardening Helpline: How to grow plants from saved seeds

  • Removing beans from dried pods is an easy way to save seeds. (seedsavers.org/Courtesy Photo)
  • Tomato seeds are wet and require soaking for a few days to remove the gelatinous membrane that surrounds them. (growingveg.com/Courtesy Photo)

Wanda asks: I have been growing vegetables and herbs on my property for a long time. I think I would like to save some of the seeds from what I grow to replant. Is this easy? If so, how do I do it?

Tropical Gardener answer: Growing new plants from seeds you have saved is not hard. Though there are several videos online as well as some informational publications, many are geared to mainland growing where seed saving is seasonal and annuals usually produce seeds at the end of the growing season. Plants that are annuals on the mainland may continue growing for several seasons without flowering or producing seeds here in Hawaii. That can make seed saving from some species difficult here for most plants. Some plants will eventually produce seeds and collecting and saving them can be relatively easy.

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Collecting and saving seeds from most of the plants we grow is simple if you follow a few guidelines:

1. Plant open-pollinated or heirloom seeds. Hybrids or GMO seeds will not come true to the parent.

2. Seeds in the same family can cross pollinate. Plant them far apart to avoid this.

3. Choose your healthiest plants with the best flavor for seed saving.

4. Allow the fruit or seeds to fully mature. When the fruit is ripe or the seeds start to dry, you can remove them from the plant.

5. Dry seeds can be left on the plant to dry if you check daily and collect them if the weather is wet. Once dry on the plant, remove them and place them in a dry spot inside until they are fully dry.

6. Wet seeds are encased in fruit or gelatinous membrane which will ferment off by soaking in water.

7. Be sure both wet and dry seeds are fully dry before storing.

8. Good storage is the key to maintaining seed viability.

9. Store seeds in a moisture proof container in the refrigerator indicating plant name and date collected.

10. Before planting, test a few seeds for viability. Place them between moist (not wet) paper towels. If they don’t sprout in a few weeks, they may not be viable.

This is a great time to harvest and save your seeds. On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Community Seed Library is holding a Seed Exchange. The exchange starts at 10 a.m. and goes until noon at the Kailua-Kona Public Library. A short, locally produced video on seed saving will be shown repeatedly throughout the event. Seed Sisters will be on hand to answer questions about plants and seed saving. This event is also a celebration of the third birthday of the Community Seed Library. Refreshments will be served. Bring seeds or cuttings to share or come get seeds to plant so you can save seeds for next year. Please do not bring any plants in soil. We want to protect gardeners from the transfer of coqui frogs or fire ants.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living in a dryland forest north of Kailua-Kona.

Gardening Events

Monday: Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Monthly Meeting from 7-9 p.m. at West Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers office 81-6393 Mamalahoa Highway in Kealakekua. White wooden building on makai side across from the Department of Transportation yard. Park in front or on the north side. For more information contact Brian Lievens President West Hawaii Chapter at 895-8753 or greenwizard@hawaii.rr.com.

Saturday: “Work Day at Amy Greenwell Garden” from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at the Garden Visitor Center across from the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook. Volunteers will be able to help with garden maintenance and are invited to bring a brown bag lunch. Water and snacks provided. Call Peter at 323-3318 for more information.

Farmer Direct Markets

Wednesday: “Hooulu Farmers Market” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sheraton Kona Resort &Spa at Keauhou Bay

Saturday: “Keauhou Farmers Market” 8 a.m. to noon at Keauhou Shopping Center

“Kamuela Farmer’s Market” from 7 a.m. to noon at Pukalani Stables

“Waimea Town Market” from 7:30 a.m. to noon at the Parker School in central Waimea

“Waimea Homestead Farmers Market” from 7 a.m. to noon at the Waimea Middle and Elementary School Playground

Sunday: “Pure Kona Green Market” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook

“Hamakua Harvest” 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Highway 19 and Mamane Street in Honokaa

Plant Advice Lines

Anytime: konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu

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Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. to noon at UH-CES in Kainaliu – 322-4893

Mondays and Fridays: 9 a.m. to noon at UH CES at Komohana in Hilo 981-5199 or himga@hawaii.edu