Is your garden coming to an end but you want to preserve your wonderful plants for next year? This blog post will share simple tips on how to save seeds!
How to Save Seeds
If you planted heirloom seeds this year in your garden and think you are done harvesting now, you are wrong! Today we are going to learn all about how to save some of the most common garden seeds. If you’ve been wanting to save money off your yearly gardening plans and learn to become even more self-sufficient, you will really enjoy today’s blog post.
Before we start learning how to save seeds, we have to know the difference between the types of plants and seeds you planted in the first place in your garden.
Types of Seeds to Save
Hybrid Seeds –
Hybrid Seeds are bred to be different than their original plant. Maybe they grow bigger or produce more or are more disease resistant. Whatever the case, hybrid seeds are not able to be saved since they are different from the original plant and can produce unreliable off-spring.
Organic Seeds –
Organic Seeds are produced without the use of chemicals and toxic fertilizers. They can be hybrid or heirloom but they cannot be genetically modified. If you have heirloom organic seeds you can save them.
Heirloom Seeds –
Heirloom Seeds are seeds that come from plants that have been around for a long time. This means they are not modified in any way from the original plant. This means you are able to save these seeds because they will grow into the parent plants.
So if you planted any variety of Heirloom Seeds, you are in luck! You can harvest your plant seeds and save them for next year’s planting so you won’t have to buy new seeds. Below you will find the most commonly planted veggies and learn how to save their seeds.
How to Save Seeds (Common Plants)
Bean Seeds –
Allow several bean pods to ripen and dry on the plant. Do not let them get wet after they have started to dry (don’t water and make sure it doesn’t rain on them!). Once they are dry the pods will start to crack open. You will want to try and harvest the pods before the seeds fall to the ground. If you pick the pods before the beans are dry, just lay them out in a dry, warm area of your home and let them finish drying before you store them for next year’s use.
Dill Seeds –
Harvest Dill heads at any time after they are ready to be picked. Store in a dry, warm area or hang upside down by the stem until the top part is dry. Harvest the seeds and store for next year. Dill will re-plant its-self if the dried seeds are allowed to fall to the ground. If you want it to grow in the same place you planted it last year, then you won’t need to do anything. Should you want to move it and plant it elsewhere, be sure and harvest the seeds.
Cucumber Seeds –
Cucumbers that are wanted for seeds should be left on the plants for long after they are ripe. Yes, that means those big huge cucumbers that you miss under the plants will actually have a purpose! Remove the extra-large cucumber and cut open to remove the seeds. You can dry the seeds on a dry cloth or a paper towel in a place they will not be disturbed for 3 weeks before you put them away for next year. Before putting them away, make sure to clean the seeds.
Corn Seeds –
Make sure any corn saved is non-GMO. Leave corn to dry out on the stalk. Just like with the beans, you will not allow the corn to get wet and do not water the plants while they are drying. Once the cobs appear dry, you can remove them from the plants and place in a warm dry area where they will not be disturbed for a few more weeks until they are fully dried. Pull the seeds off the cob before storing.
Pea Seeds –
Peas can be saved using the same method as beans. Just let them dry on the plants and do not let them get wet. Once dried, pull them from the plants and harvest the seeds from inside the pods. The seeds should be fully dried before you store.
Pepper Seeds –
Again, let your peppers dried on the plants before harvesting. Pick the peppers off the plants and harvest the seeds inside (Always wear gloves when working with peppers and do not touch your eyes, I’m speaking from a bad experience with this one!). The seeds should be fully dried before you put away, so you may need to let them dry for a bit longer on a plate where they will not be disturbed.
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds –
Similar to cucumbers, let the squash or pumpkins ripen for a long time on the stems (leave them for at least another 3 weeks past the regular “ripe” stage). Pick the veggies and then leave them for yet another 3 weeks before even opening the plants to remove the seeds. Squash and pumpkin seeds will need to be ferment before they are harvested, and they will do this best still inside the vegetable. After this time has passed, remove the seeds and wash them thoroughly (you want the oily feel to be gone). Dry the seeds from the water and then let them sit to finish drying in a warm, dry area before putting away.
–Learn more about Uses for Squash Seeds!
Gourd Seeds –
Gourds are one of the easiest seeds to harvest! Simply let the gourds dry out (either on the plant or picked). Once you hear them rolling around inside like a baby rattle you can break open the gourd and pull the seeds out to save.
Tomato Seeds –
You will need to ferment Tomato Seeds before storing just like squash seeds. To accomplish this with tomato seeds, simply pull the “guts” of the tomato out and place in a bowl or mason jar for 3 days with a little water. Once you see bubbling or mold start to form, empty out the jar. Rinse the seeds well and place on a paper towel or rag to dry.
Want to learn more about saving all types of seeds? I recommend the book Seed to Seed for detailed instructions and more seed saving ideas.
Storing Garden Seeds
You will want to make sure that you store your freshly harvested garden seeds in an airtight container. My personal favorite method is simply using a Mason jar with an airtight screw lid. They are inexpensive and I always have them on hand. If you have the jars with the glass lids and gaskets like those pictured above, they work really well also.
Need more gardening tips? Check out all our Gardening 101 articles!
Have you ever tried to learn how to save seeds? Which ones have you saved and did they work for you?
This blog post on How to Save Seeds was originally published on Little House Living in August 2016. It has been updated as of August 2019.