5 Secrets for Growing Your Own Seedbank

Ilona Erwin

You may wish to grow your own seed supply for plants that you love. Perhaps they are hard to get or simply grow well in your garden and you wish to have a continuing stock. If that is your plan here are 5 “secrets” of success to get you started.

It is easy to grow one’s own seeds. Just remember a few of the secrets, and the results will save money and may even lead to making your own selections as you harvest seeds for growing in your garden.

What Is a Seed?

A baby plant is asleep within the capsule we call a seed. Crack open a bean seed or an acorn and you are likely to see the embryo plant curled up and ready to grow.


First secret is the most important:

Not all seeds “come true” to type. If you are growing a hybridplant that has had two different plant or variety-types as parents, there are special crosses that are made in the pollination of the seeds. Certain plants are highly hybridized under careful conditions. It is unlikely that it will be worthwhile for you to take that level of care, even if you know the parents that produced those varieties.

heirloom tomato

heirloom tomato

Commercially, some plants can only be reproduced through cloning. If you stick with heritage types that “come truewhen the saved seed will be the same as the plant the seed was saved from” from seed, that is your first important consideration.


Next secret is about storage.

  • Seeds are dormant and stay asleep as long as they are kept in a cool, dry place. This will help keep seeds viable.
  • Use a desiccant such as silica gel to prepare for storage. Mix seeds with equal parts silica gel in a jar; seal and dry for a week; remove seeds and store. This can help increase longevity.

The important thing to remember about storage is that moisture is an enemy, as is temperature fluctuation. Cool, even frozen, and with little humidity, are the conditions best for keeping seeds viable. Best practice for home gardeners? Paper packets in frost free place.


Learning about seed viability:

Not all seeds are equal when it comes to how long they keep before germination rates fall. There are “desiccation-tolerant” and “desiccation-intolerant” types.

Spinach, lettuce, parsnip, and corn seeds are viable for a short time; bean and squash for longer.

seed saving chart

Seed saving chart


Ways to harvest seeds:
As seed comes to ripening fully, place a paper bag over the seed head. This is a good method for dry seed collecting. (Dry Seeds are the seeds that are dry to the touch when taken from the husk, hull, or fruit.)

Wet seed collecting: Plants such as tomato, squash, and melon are considered “wet seeds”. Scoop out pulp containing seeds into shallow container of water. Allow debris to float to top and pour off (good seeds sink to bottom); continue until seeds are clean. Strain them and then dry on a sheet of glass or ceramic surface. Final dry in a shady place for up to two weeks before storing.


Choose from good, strong, healthy plants. Maybe this is obvious and not an actual secret, and maybe it should have been first on the list, but selecting from a parent plant that has the best qualities makes sense. It isn’t just color or a pretty flower, but vigor and health that makes a good candidate for perpetuating.

It might be good to mark likely candidates before they go to seed: tie a bit of yarn on the stem of the best plants. Or mark with a popsicle stick at its base.

Resource For Details on Specific Seeds, and More

Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook

After Collecting Your Free Seeds

By R. C. Johnson – Gene Banks Pay Big Dividends to Agriculture, the Environment, and Human Welfare Johnson RC PLoS Biology Vol. 6, No. 6, e148 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060148[1], CC BY 2.5

Storage and labeling systems.



Short list of tips.

Fun Fact

Did you know the oldest known seed was a 2000 year-old date palm which was successfully germinated in 2005?

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.