Saving seeds from this year's vegetable crop means you won't need to buy seeds next year, which saves money. Seed saving also helps continue heirloom strains of vegetables that aren't easily available from seed catalogs and are even more rare at nurseries. When planning for seed saving, grow vegetable varieties that are open-pollinated. Avoid hybrid varieties since these seeds are either not viable or will produce inferior plants and vegetables. Also avoid patented plant varieties; saving seeds from these is illegal.
Choose the healthiest plants with the largest vegetables for seed harvest. Look for large and healthy green leaves, good-tasting fruits and disease and pest resistance; the seeds will likely have these same attributes.
Allow the vegetable to ripen completely before harvesting. Pick tomatoes and peppers once they reach full ripened color and the skins begin to wrinkle, pick beans and peas once the pods brown and the seeds begin rattling inside, and harvest melons and squash once they easily twist off the vine or fall off on their own.
Remove the seeds from the fruit. Scoop out the seeds and gel in tomatoes and melons and place in a glass of warm water until the seeds separate from the gel and sink to the bottom of the glass. For other vegetables, remove the seeds and brush off any pulp that is on them. Leave peas and beans in the pod.
Lay the seeds in a single layer on top of paper towels. Place in a cool, dry place for two weeks while the seeds to finish drying. Inspect the seeds after drying, discard any visibly damaged ones and brush off any remaining dried pulp from the rest.
Place seeds in envelopes or paper bags labeled with the plant variety and year of seed harvest. Store peas and beans in the pod or shell and store in envelopes. Place the seeds in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant in spring.
Things You Will Need
- Paper towels
- Store seeds in your refrigerator, since it has both the proper temperature and dryness for the seeds.
- Store seeds with a small amount of powdered milk or silica gel---available at craft stores---to absorb any excess moisture in the air.
- Avoid storing seeds in plastic bags, Moisture trapped in the bags could cause the seeds to rot or break dormancy early.
- Squash and corn cross-pollinate easily, so seeds saved from these might not be true to the parent plant if other varieties of the plant are grown nearby.