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How to identify and save seed

Updated on January 3, 2017
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from my mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Invest in permanent markers for perennials

Invest in permanent  makers for plants that are here to stay. These are pricey but they last for years.
Invest in permanent makers for plants that are here to stay. These are pricey but they last for years. | Source

Temporary tags for starter plants

temporary lables to idtentify starter plants until they get big enough to recognize.
temporary lables to idtentify starter plants until they get big enough to recognize. | Source

No, you won't remember

Label Seeds

While seed starting requires a clear label, the more info on that plant tag, the better. Don't fling yourself into the valley of regret. Label your new seedlings because often, those teeny, tiny seeds look nothing like the starter plant that will transplant into the garden.

For example, I grow several different heirloom tomatoes from seed. When they come up, they all look a like. It would be easy to identify the little seedlings as tomatoes. But what kind of tomatoes are they? If the plants aren't carefully labeled, no telling what I planted or what I can expect to grow.

Easy to read

Basic and functional tags in a public garden.
Basic and functional tags in a public garden. | Source

Did I Plant That?

Label Starter Plants

In my small space garden, it is important that I know what and where every plant is located. Plant identification is important so I can take advantage of companion planting. And being able to identify plants and varieties is very important to succession planting.

For example, I'll plant bush beans and pole beans at the same time knowing the bush beans will be about a week ahead of the pole beans. Burpee Tenderpod Bush been is ready in 60 days, and Burpee Kentucky Blue Pole bean is ready in 65 days. If I plant these beans at the same time, as one variety is finishing up production, the next variety is just coming on.

Pull old lettuce and spinach plants when they start to bolt. Replant summer hardy lettuces and chard. Plant heat resistant greens. Label these plants, lettuces and leafy greens look a lot a like when they are small.

What kind of tomato is this?

When growing tomatoes from seed, it is important to lable seeds right put of the packet.
When growing tomatoes from seed, it is important to lable seeds right put of the packet. | Source

I'd grow this again if I knew what it was

Always Tag Tomatoes

When tomato producing time arrives, you might think labels are unnecessary. Those labels are invaluable at this very productive time. If you know that Pompeii and Jersey Giant tomatoes are about to bloom, you know to buy canning jars for those determinate roma or paste tomatoes.

If you know Hillbilly or Flame and Chocolate Amazon tomatoes are about to produce, get ready for the nonstop summerlong tomato production. These two varieties are indeterminate and will produce all their fruit until frost.

How To Save Extra Seed

Can help you save unused seed and carefully store it. Most seeds will last till next year. Check here to see how long your plant seeds will keep. Lable every seed pack and add your personal notes.

Where to get plant markers

Make your own: recycle mini blinds, cut a plastic milk jug into strip and then use a permanent marker to label. Cheap chopsticks, scrap lumber or, shingles. Colorful pinwheels, laminate seed packets, Hi! I'm … labels covered front and back with wide clear packing tape or shipping tape. Old CDs

Buy Markers: at Gardeners Supply

Heavy Petal

Luster Leaf Rapiclip 6-Inch Garden Plant Labels

First try saving marigold seed

It is easy to save old fashioned marigold seed. Modern, hybrized plants can not be saved.
It is easy to save old fashioned marigold seed. Modern, hybrized plants can not be saved. | Source

Saving your own seeds

Marigolds are a good choice for beginning gardeners who want to start saving seed from there own gardens.

  • Why save seed? Free seed. Collecting seed from your own flowers is economical. Seed savers learn more about their plants and build their skills. Note: Hybrid varieties, are bred from two distinct parent plants. Seed saved from hybrids may not produce plants like the one you bought.
  • What do I save? If you grow some tasty or outstanding plants, save the seed from your best fruits and flowers. Collecting the best seed from the best plants year after year will create plants that are ideal for your soil and zone.
  • Where do I store seed? Make sure the seed is dry. Store in an envelope or zip lock bag. Keep seed cool and dry. Label and date the packet. If you learned a helpful growing technique, write it down. Make notes about growing the seed and put it inside the envelope. Trust me, you should write down the name of the seeds, the date and any details or tips.

Try saving seed from a few of your garden favorites this year. The number of seeds sold in the seed catalogs decreases every year. Saving seed may save that particular heirloom from extinction. Only save open pollinated and heirloom seed. These are the only seeds that will reproduce true. Hybrids may be sterile or reproduce any number of combinations.

Marigolds are an easy flower seed to save. Pinch the dried flower buds off the marigold. Roll the seed pods to break it open and reveal the seeds. Marigold seeds look like little needles with one end dark and the other end light colored.

I save seed every year from a white cucumber my grandmother always grew. Those seed are a connection to my past and a way of saving a mild white cucumber that is very hard to find.


Submit a Comment
  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    7 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Howdy Gail! Gardening is my therapy. I only eat tomatoes fresh. Can not bring myself to buy a gassed grocery store replica.

  • MobyWho profile image


    7 years ago from Burlington VT

    Hey Patsybell - Gail H here - great advice! I only have a few plants in a few buckets, but I admire your thinking ahead to 'when to buy canning jars' etc. You are one organized gardener and I'm jealous!


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