How to Save Seeds for Gardening


Saving seeds is a great way to keep the genetic variation of many plants alive. For centuries, farmers relied on this practice to start next year's crops and keep certain heirloom varieties of foods they liked from passing into extinction. In order to end up with the same plant you took seeds from, however, you must collect seeds from plants that are not hybrids, or the child of two slightly different varieties of the same plant, such as an "Early Girl" tomato. The best way to start, and to know for certain that your plant is open pollinated and not a hybrid, is to begin with seeds from a reliable source that states they are "heirlooms" or "traditional." Then your seed saving can begin after those fruits and veggies produce their bounty.

Step 1

Let several zucchini, tomatoes, corn, green beans, basil and other crops whose seeds you want to save remain on their plants until they are bigger than you would usually pick. You can even let them start to rot a little bit, but don't wait too long to pick them, because the seeds inside could begin to sprout.

Step 2

Scoop all the seeds out of vegetables in late summer or fall. Then, rinse the seeds with clean water to remove any remaining vegetable material.

Step 3

Pat seeds dry and then put them into a small box. Leave it in a warm, dark, dry, well-ventilated area, such as your garage. It helps the drying process if you shake them or stir them every day, which will prevent any moisture from causing mold or mildew.

Step 4

Dry flower spikes containing seeds, like those produced by basil, by tying small bunches with string or twine and then hanging them from a clothes line in a warm, dark, dry, well-ventilated area. When the plant material is dry and crispy, shake it over a box and the seeds will fall out.

Step 5

Store your dried seeds in plastic zipper bags and keep them in a cool, dark, dry place. The crisper compartment of your refrigerator is a good place to keep seeds. Don't forget to label which plant the seeds came from.

Step 6

Start your saved seeds in early spring in starter trays, just as you would with seeds you purchase.

Tips and Warnings

  • You can save the seeds from many other plants, such as fruits and flowers. Just make sure they are heirloom varieties or the resulting offspring will not be "true to type." You could end up with plants that are sterile or just not what you expected.

Things You'll Need

  • Shoe box (or other small box)
  • Clippers
  • Clothes line
  • Twine or string
  • Clothes pins
  • Plastic zipper storage bags


  • International Seed Saving Institute
  • Open pollinated seeds
Keywords: seeds saving, heirloom vegetables, hybrid gardening

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.