How to Save Your Own Vegetable Seeds

Overview

Saving vegetable seeds from the home garden is a smart way to propagate plants and save money. Most vegetables contain many seeds that can be scooped out of pods or fruit, dried and stored for use in next season's garden. Getting seeds completely dry is one of the keys to successfully saving seeds, as is choosing the right plants whose progeny will most resemble them in appearance, taste and vigor. Certain vegetable seeds are easier to save than others, particularly those that are open pollinated rather than hybrids.

Step 1

Determine what types of seeds you want to save. According to the University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program, seeds that are easily saved are legumes, like peas and beans, and tomato, pepper, eggplant and other open pollinated plants. Save vine crop seeds, like cucumber and squash, but keep in mind they are likely to become cross-pollinated with other varieties, and therefore produce plants that are different than the original.

Step 2

Avoid saving seeds from an F1 hybrid vegetable, which can produce plants that are inferior to the original because the original comes from unrelated parent plants. Buy F1 hybrid seeds each year to ensure optimal plant quality.

Step 3

Harvest mature fruit that is not overripe. Choose the best looking, tastiest fruit from good producing, vigorous healthy plants. Wait until bean pods are completely dry and seeds rattle in them, or if frost threatens, pull bean and pepper plants and hang them with twine in a cool, dry place until pods turn brown and peppers ripen. Extract seeds from pods and fruit by hand.

Step 4

Place jelly-coated tomato seeds from one or two tomatoes in a glass jar filled about one quarter full of water, loosely cover with plastic wrap, set in a warm location for three days and stir with a spoon each day. Allow the fungus that forms on top to remain, because it helps remove the gelatinous coat and prevents disease and germination. Pour more water in the glass to fill it after three days, let things settle and begin pouring out the contents that don't sink to the bottom, like immature seeds that float to the top. Strain the seeds through fine mesh and allow them to dry for about two days on paper towels.

Step 5

Ensure that seeds, like beans, dry completely by placing them on a screen or in front of a fan in a place that does not reach above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days.

Step 6

Place seeds in paper seed packets labeled with the names of seeds, varieties and dates you collected them. Store seeds in one or more tightly sealed glass containers. Add about two tablespoons of desiccant or milk powder wrapped in facial tissue to each container to help absorb air moisture and keep seeds dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Open-pollinated vegetables
  • Twine
  • Glass jars
  • Water
  • Plastic wrap
  • Spoon
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Paper towels
  • Screen
  • Paper seed packets
  • Desiccant or milk powder
  • Facial tissue

References

  • International Seed Saving Institute: Basic Seed Saving -- Beginner
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Saving Vegetable Seeds: Tomatoes, Peppers, Peas and Beans
  • University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program: Saving Vegetable Seeds
Keywords: saving seeds, vegetables, drying

About this Author

Joy Brown is a newspaper reporter at "The Courier" and www.thecourier.com in Findlay, Ohio. She has been writing professionally since 1995, primarily in Findlay and previously at the "Galion (Ohio) Inquirer" and "Toledo City Paper." Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and history from Miami University.