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Tools and Materials for Keeping Your Own Seed  

These are our seed production tools. They aren’t all essential, but they are all useful in the many ways of seed collection, from harvesting through cleaning. For home use seedkeepers, much of it is excessive. For budding seedpeople, this is enough material support to get into the commercial seed profession.

“Magic Tools,” as we call them, aka serrated rice sickles, are our all purpose harvest tools, cutting every kind of seed stem from grasses to kale with a simple pulling motion. No hacking, just slicing. Get them from Zenport online for a ridiculously cheap price.

Plastic tarps collect what gets cut by Magic Tools. Sizes from 6’ x 8’ to 6’ x 16’ are especially useful for collection, drying, wrapping against rain, threshing, screening, and winnowing. We do everything on a tarp, including driving on seedheads. There is a whole discipline we call “tarpology,” the knowledge of tarps.

Threshing sticks get the seed off of the plant, onto the tarp. I have always made these for crew members, individualizing each one. We become very attached to these sticks, truly extensions of ourselves while handling plants, tarps, seeds, and bins with less bending and more persuasion. They should be light and strong, capable of either whipping or thrashing. I like hazel, and ash.

Rubbermaid bins have been the standard for three decades of seedkeeping and processing for us. Apparently, this brand has gone out of the bin business, but whatever the replacement is, this will be the kind of container used in seed collection, cleaning, and perhaps storage. 

Seed scoops are used for winnowing, during processing, and constantly for seed handling. Our standard has been the “baby butt-wipe” container since the early 1990s, when we had baby butts to wipe. Bread pans are a reasonable and available substitute.

A shop vac can do some effective seed-rubbing operations in a fast and tidy manner. Be careful.

Screens are essential, the more the better. The very basic sizes are 1/2”, 1/4”, 1/8”, and 1/16” wire screen that can be purchased at a good hardware store. Make frames for this screening that fit nicely onto your bins. The Anderson nursery flat, an industry standard plastic tray with 3/16” square holes, is another basic screen for us (we call them “black screens”), and they are essential in our methods. Beyond these basics, there is a world of screen sizes and shapes perfectly suited to particular seeds. These are available from an excellent domestic source, QC (Quality Checked) Screens in Minnesota. Google for the details.

Winnowing devices of some kind are also essential. The wind is useful but not sufficient for commercial seedwork. A standard window fan is a crude but useful source of wind, especially applicable for heavy seeds and initial cleaning steps. A modified fan using incoming air flow (as opposed to fan output) is more useful for fine seeds and fine separations. There are designs online for DIY seed winnowing devices using a shop vac to provide air flow. The very best device for commercial applications is the Winnow Wizard, invented and manufactured by Mark Luterra (Luterra Enterprises, LLC). This has become the alternative seed industry’s backbone seed cleaner, replacing a number of expensive devices for improving seed cleanliness and quality for small-to-medium scale operations. A very operator-friendly seed cleaning technology.

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