Harvesting seeds after you have harvested your vegetables is economical and rewarding; however, while vegetable seeds are not difficult to collect, growing the "parent plant" can be challenging. Plant a simple garden of self-pollinating vegetables, or go the extra mile to isolate vegetables that may cross-pollinate. Certain vegetables must be separated by several feet or more to prevent any cross-pollination, which may make seeds that are not viable. Once you have planned and planted your garden, you'll find making your own vegetable seeds a very enriching experience.
Allow fruit on your non-hybrid plants to over-ripen. Spinach and lettuces need to go to seed. If there is danger of frost, pull up the plant and hang it to dry in a cool, dry location.
Place the pulp and seeds of cucumbers or tomatoes in a jar with a little water. Let the pulp ferment and grow a fungus, which will eat the seed protection as well as prevent seed disease.
Pour off the water, pulp and any floating seeds from the jar. Place viable seeds on a paper towel to dry.
Scoop out the seeds of pepper, squash and melons to place them on a paper towel or newspaper to dry.
Remove the seeds of peas, radishes, beans, lettuce, spinach and corn (from the pod, stalk or cob) by hand after these seeds have dried.
Store seeds in resealable plastic bags in a cool, dry place.
Things You Will Need
- Non-hybrid plants
- Paper towel or newspaper
- Resealable plastic bags
- Beans, lettuce, peppers, peas and tomatoes are mostly self-pollinating; therefore, ideal starter vegetables for the novice seed gatherer. If you plant different varieties of these vegetables, however, place them at least 20 feet apart.
- Plant different varieties of squash, cucumbers, melon and radishes at least a half-mile apart because they easily cross-pollinate.
- The different varieties of corn and of spinach need to be at least a mile apart. They cross-pollinated by the wind.
- You can also save the seeds of beets, Swiss chard, members of the cabbage family, carrots, onions, endive and turnips, but they require more than a year for seed production and have very specific isolation needs to prevent cross-pollination.
- You can eat leaves off of lettuce and spinach and still collect seeds. You can also eat melons, tomatoes, peppers and squash when harvesting seeds.
- Peppers are usually red when fully ripe. Peas and beans will have brown pods, cucumbers will turn yellow, squash will have a hardened shell, and radish stalks will be 3 feet tall and have brown seed pods when they are ready to be harvested.
- Do not save the seeds of hybrid vegetables. These seeds will not be viable.
- Certain squashes--such as acorn squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, white cushaw pumpkins and jack o' lantern pumpkins--will cross with each other and so should be isolated from one another.