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More beans and seed stuff

October 29, 2009


These beans weren’t so easy to thresh.  Another heirloom personally close to me, these are green beans and these pods were strictly saved for seed.  This was an exceptional year for drying down my seed pods on the vine.  Many days my pockets were full of dry pods when I came in from the garden.  These pods do not give up so easily, clinging to each seed.  A little more hand work was involved with these.


Not every year is a good year for seed saving.  Home grown, properly cured and selected seeds have a good seed life, many times retaining good vigor much longer than purchased seeds.  You actually know how old your home-grown seeds are, purchased seeds – well maybe not.


Each pod yielded 5 or 6 beans.  I planted 40 poles worth, with 4 beans each, so to replenish my seed I would only need to save 40 pods for next years crop.  That would allow for a cull seed or two, and replanting if the Mourning Doves decide the emerging bean epicotyl is a worm and not a bean sprout 😦  


When you save seed look for the plumpest, healthiest specimens if it is easily discernible.  It’s easy to see with these beans which are worth saving for seed and which should be discarded.


This shows cross-pollination between my flint corn and hybrid sweet corn.  The shriveled kernels are soft and much larger than the hard flint corn kernels.  I won’t be saving these cobs for seed.


Beet seeds harvested earlier also needed stripping off the stems and moved to a better storage location. 

Seed saving can be fun and even gardeners with a small space can grow different seeds each year and keep themselves in seeds of some varieties.  An added benefit too is that the varieties get acclimated to your garden conditions and microclimate.  At first with some crops like winter squash or garlic the first harvests may be mediocre, but by saving seed from your plants you can enhance your harvests.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristen Fry permalink
    October 30, 2009 4:34 am

    how do you store your seeds after they are dried?

    • November 1, 2009 6:29 am

      Kristen, some are in jars, or envelopes or small paper sacks… But, I did finally buy some of those plastic storage boxes with the snap on lids, and I store my seeds in those by type. That way I’m not searching for broccoli seeds and digging through cucumber seed packets. Been there – done that :O For final storage I store them upstairs, cool, dry and dark. Right now, seeds are everywhere!

  2. October 30, 2009 5:57 am

    At what point can you pull the plant and bring it in to finish drying inside a shed? I’d like to start saving my own seeds. I tried it some, not all with success. Our garden was a month later maturing than normal due to a cold spring and a early winter. The green beans were still pretty green when they froze.

    Yes, we skipped fall and went right to cold and snow. Next year is forecasted to be more of the same. In fact last night was to be eighteen degrees Fahrenheit. Disheartened, I didn’t look at the thermometer this morning. I’ll just put on my Swedish wool army pants and trudge through the snow to do livestock chores.

    • November 1, 2009 6:36 am

      Holly, I save seeds from different things in different years, and that helps when I get a stretch of bad weather. We had a good year this year for seeds. I have had years where I had to forgo a crop just to get enough seeds for the next year. That’s why I plant so many different kinds of vegetables. Something always makes it, and we will not go hungry, hopefully 🙂

      As for your question, about when to pull the plant? Try to get your seeds of whatever to get as mature as possible on the vine, or stalk. They can tolerate some rain if still greenish, but if a certain percentage is dry – no rain. Sometimes you can just harvest seeds that are dry, and leave the others to ripen. It just depends. Each type of vegetable has different requirements for seed saving.

      I do not envy your cold temperatures. It is mild here 40’s and rain, very typical. Just wet, wet, wet.

  3. October 30, 2009 6:01 am

    I’m glad to hear that your beans did so well this season, we struggled with ours a bit but still ended up with a fair harvest.

    I was wondering if you could help me to understand why it is that the little blue jade corns I grew this year have both shriveled and hard kernels. The seeds I originally purchased were all shriveled. We did grow painted mountain as well but staggered it by almost a month and were pretty sure (not positive) that there was not any cross pollination. All of the painted mountain turned out beautifully. If I plant the blue jade again, which seeds would I save? The hard or the shriveled?

    • November 1, 2009 6:57 am

      Mike, I was surprised at the beans too, since we did get a fair amount of rain this summer, which is unusual for here. But they did well.

      I haven’t grown either of those, but it sounds like they crossed. Is Painted Mountain shriveled or hard? That would tell you if your corn crossed or the other possibility could be that the seed you bought wasn’t pure. Sweet corn usually has a shriveled seed, so if blue jade is a sweet corn, save the shriveled, and if possible save only from the cobs with all shriveled. My corn with the soft kernels has become chicken feed. And my corn was planted 2 weeks apart and the only ones that crossed were where one variety stopped and the other stopped, so the pollen only traveled about 4′. But Alan Kapuler has found some great varieties by crossing, so maybe if you have the space – try some of each type of kernel!

  4. October 30, 2009 7:52 am

    You mention “saving seed” in the same sentence as garlic. I was under the impression that garlic was always propagated by replanting the cloves, and that modern varieties had lost the ability to go to seed. Can you clarify? Thanks.

    • November 1, 2009 7:00 am

      Joshua, oops sorry about that, usually the term “seed” is used pretty loosely among gardeners. For instance, potato and garlic seed is not the actual seed but a tuber or clove. Most garlic has the scapes (seed stalk) removed to increase bulb size, so garlic seed isn’t usually seen. I was using garlic in my example because sometimes it takes several years for a variety to acclimate in different conditions from where the original garlic was grown.

      Hope that helps!

  5. October 30, 2009 7:59 am

    ahhh… makes me drift away into fantasies of next year……

  6. October 30, 2009 8:47 am

    We have so-o-o-o-o many questions!

    I had a much tougher bean saving year than last year, and had hoped for a more reliable harvest than was the case. Everything set a second and then a third crop, and most of the pods simply refused to turn brown! This was true for five varieties of green bean and two of runner beans. What was that?

    I was able to thresh a cup and a half of kale seed, but the beans ended up being all hand work, so that I could tell which ones might be dry enough to store (unfinished beans are colder to the touch, due to the presence of moisture). I saved up about two bushels of the best pods I could get, by the woodstove, and shelled in the evenings while talking or listening to music.

    This brought back profoundly moving memories of my grandmother and her sister-in-law, sitting at a table on the screened porch of my great-aunt’s farm, in North Georgia, watching the hickories and poplars change color as they shelled black-eyed peas by hand.

    • November 1, 2009 7:07 am

      Risa, irrigation is not your friend in the garden when planning for seed saving. We did get some unusual rain this year, spurring on more growth. On the green beans for seed saving purposes, I mark several poles that show what characteristics that I am looking for, and I do not pick them. The rest are for eating, canning etc. Green beans will continue to put on successive pickings if you keep picking them. But seed saving is so different – since it takes so much longer to get to the dry seed stage. Dry beans are a different story,though they do not get picked until very mature and hopefully dry.

      Love your story of your great-aunt’s farm 🙂

  7. October 30, 2009 9:11 am

    I have found some ‘unique’ beans in our pintos. I’m saving them to plant in another spot to see what develops. Wouldn’t it be cool if I found another variety? Even if I haven’t just looking for this ‘odd’ beans has been fun.


    • November 1, 2009 7:08 am

      Linda, I know what you mean, some of the colors can be mesmerizing, and the possibilities – can’t wait to hear your results!

  8. October 30, 2009 6:11 pm

    Thanks for the info. Always looking to learn about seed saving. Beets….I never saw seeds on them. When do you typically see seed on them. This is year 2 or 3 for garlic. First year I have not had to buy any, planted from our own. Fellow gardener that was visiting was showing us the seeds. When to plant them?

    • November 1, 2009 7:10 am

      Kim, hopefully you didn’t see beet seeds! Beets are biennials and you need to replant the root the next spring and then let it flower 🙂 It’s time to plant the garlic now, before it freezes – that will give you the best crop next year. Or did you mean the seeds on the flower? Plant the best cloves of garlic, not any seeds from them. Seeds from garlic would take years to develop.

  9. October 31, 2009 1:23 am

    Are there some veg that you find are easier to save seeds than others? Your beans look great. Do you also use them as dry beans, or only save them for seed?

    • November 1, 2009 7:12 am

      Mangochild, beans and peas are the easiest. Not much chance of cross pollination and they usually dry good enough for seed in even a short season.

      The beans in this post are green (well actually purple)beans and just for seed. But the speckled beans in the previous post are dry beans, for eating and seed.

  10. November 1, 2009 7:42 am

    Thank you! That answered my question. The blue jade is a sweet corn so perhaps there was a little crossing going on. Although the painted mountain did not have any shriveled seed I suspect that perhaps the pollination only went one way due to the fact that the blue jade is only half as tall as the painted corn…interesting. I may try planting the hard blue seeds next year just to see how they turn out.

  11. November 5, 2009 5:08 pm

    I wish I had your tenacity! I’m so hit and miss with my seed saving efforts…

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