How to Save Garden Seeds

Farmers have saved their own seeds for millenia. image by Meena Kadri:


What better way to plant a garden than with the seeds saved from last years harvest? Sharing the seeds you save with other gardeners helps ensure that varieties remain available to the public. Some varieties of flowers and vegetables will gradually adapt over several years to the micro-environment of your location, producing plants that are more robust and have better resistance to some diseases and pests. Learn to save your garden seeds and pass them along for the generations that follow yours.

Self-Pollinating Vegetables

Step 1

Pick fruit that is fully ripe on the plant.

Step 2

Open the fruit and collect the seeds.

Step 3

Wash any remaining fruit or pulp from the seeds. Allow them to dry on paper plates.

Cross-Pollinating Vegetables

Step 1

Identify the male and female flower buds before they open. Some plants that cross-pollinate have "perfect flowers," and you only need to isolate a few flowers. A perfect flower has both the anthers and the stigma--the male and female parts, respectively.

Step 2

Place a small, light paper bag over the flower buds and close the neck using care not to damage the stalk.

Step 3

Collect pollen from the male flowers with a cotton swab and place it on the stigma of the female flower.

Step 4

Replace the bag on the female flower until the fruit begins to develop, at which time the bag can be removed. Mark the fruit as the one you will be saving for seeds.

Step 5

Allow the vegetable to ripen fully on the plant. Remove it and collect the seeds to wash and dry on paper plates.


Step 1

Isolate the flowers to be saved for seed from the others by enclosing the bud in a paper bag before it opens.

Step 2

Pollinate the flowers once they mature by collecting pollen on a cotton swab and brushing it on the stigma. Only collect pollen from flowers you have isolated. Replace the paper bags over the flowers.

Step 3

Clip the stalk off after the flower head has withered and dried. Open the bags indoors and place the flower heads and any seeds that fell into the bag on paper plates. Clean away all but the seeds before storing.

Saving Seeds

Step 1

Transfer the dried seeds to envelopes and mark them with the variety and year collected.

Step 2

Store the seed envelopes in plastic zipper bags, keeping all the seeds from one year in their own bag.

Step 3

Plant some of your saved seeds every year and collect new ones. Always save a reserve supply from a given year in case of a crop failure.

Things You'll Need

  • Small envelopes
  • Small, white paper bags
  • String
  • Cotton swabs
  • Paper plates


  • The complete book of plant propagation; Arbury, Bird, Honour, Innes, Salmon; 1997
  • Primal Seeds

Who Can Help

  • Vegetable Seed Saving
  • University of Illinois Extension
  • Seed Savers
Keywords: seed saving, garden seeds, vegetable flower

About this Author

Michael Logan is a writer, editor and web page designer. His professional background includes electrical, computer and test engineering, real estate investment, network engineering and management, programming and remodeling company owner. Logan has been writing professionally since he was first published in "Test & Measurement World" in 1989.

Photo by: Meena Kadri: