Saving your own legume seeds is as easy as one, two, pea!
The minimum amount of plants needed for non – commercial seed saving are 20. Make sure you are growing open pollinated, not hybrid, seed!
Follow the below three easy steps:
Choose the healthiest and most vigorous plants to harvest seeds from. Do not save seeds from weak or diseased plants, or plants that are infested with pests.
Choose plants that grow quickly, with healthy foliage and vines, and pods that are well developed with plenty of even sized seeds. These will be the healthiest plants to harvest.
All legumes hold their seeds in pods that split open from both sides.
Leave the pods on the plant until they turn brown and dry. As long as the pods are green, they are still providing nourishment to the seeds, which have not reached their full maturity.
For beans, you can get excellent results by picking the dry, brown, fully mature pods by hand, but you may have to repeat the harvest several times if the pods don’t all ripen at once. If you have enough dry space, you can cut the plants at the base and dry them whole. Be sure to spread them out so they are well ventilated. The green pods will ripen to the mature dry, brown stage in about a week.
For peas, harvest the seed pods when they are brown and dry on the plants. Wait until the leaves have died back for the best seed maturity, but if you wait too long after this stage, the pods will split open and drop the seeds on the ground. It is easier to remove the seeds from the pods when they are completely dry.
If frost threatens to kill your plants, cut the plants whole, and allow them to dry in a non-freezing, ventilated space where the seeds can mature as best as possible. Your harvested pods will not dry if the air is humid. If necessary, use a fan to circulate the air.
To tell if the seeds are ready, bite one – if it feels hard like a pebble between your teeth, it’s likely dry enough. If the seeds are soft, they need to dry more. The pods should also be completely dry and brittle.
If you are saving a small amount, crack the dry pods with your fingers and remove the seeds. If you are saving several pounds of seeds, you can save hours by threshing. One way to do this is to place the fully dried plants on a tarp or in a large bucket and crush them with a piece of wood, your feet, etc. If they are well-dried, the pods of most varieties shatter easily. Shake the tarp or bin to make the seeds sift to the bottom and remove the crushed pods and stems from the top. Seeds can be further cleaned with screens or by pouring them back and forth between two buckets in the airstream of an electric fan.
About the Author
Kelly Dini is the Seeds for Africa customer service guru! Kelly is a qualified horticulturist with 20 years of hands on experience and loves to assist customers with recommendations and giving excellent advice.