How to Preserve Vegetable Seeds

Overview

Gardeners who grow vegetables from seed know it is the best way to get a large variety of food for harvest. Save seeds from your garden after picking the vegetables, and store them for the next year's planting. Harvesting seeds saves money and preserves heirloom seeds.

Step 1

Harvest seeds when the weather is sunny and dry, in the afternoon after the dew is gone. If the seeds are encased in the vegetable, pick it according to the best seed harvest for that variety of vegetable. Lettuce seeds itself from flowers at the top of the plant. Place the flower in a paper bag and shake to release the seeds. Do this every two or three days to get a good collection of seeds.

Step 2

Allow cucumbers and squash to stay on the vine longer than for fresh-vegetable picking, so the seeds ripen. Let the seeds dry on the plant as long as possible. When ready to harvest, remove all fruit and fiber, soaking the seed in a bucket of water to remove bits of vegetable.

Step 3

Soak tomato seeds and the gel that encloses them in a bucket or jar of water for about a week to break down the coating and allow the seeds to escape. The good seeds will sink to the bottom of the water.

Step 4

Place all seeds on paper towels, and allow them to dry for about a week. You must remove excess moisture to prevent the seeds from sprouting or rotting before next spring.

Step 5

Store each variety of vegetable seeds in a separate envelope, labeling them with the vegetable type and variety. Place the envelopes in a glass jar and tightly cover. Store the jar in the refrigerator or another cool, dry place.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you grew your garden with hybrid varieties of vegetables, you probably won't get the same type of plant in next year's garden. The seeds could revert to the traits of one of the parent plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Vegetables
  • Bucket or jar
  • Paper bags
  • Paper towels
  • Envelopes
  • Glass canning jar and lid

References

  • National Gardening Association
  • Organic Gardening

Who Can Help

  • List of places to swap seeds
Keywords: preserve vegetable seeds, harvesting seeds, heirloom seeds

About this Author

Anne Baley is a writer and photographer living in Southeast Michigan. She has written numerous articles about places she has discovered while traveling throughout the United States. Baley's work has appeared in a variety of online outlets, including Endless Sunday.