How To Save Seeds From Your Garden

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One of the most joyous feelings for a gardener is to see that first ripe pepper o tomato on the vine. Excitement boils over, as you can’t wait to taste the fruits of your labor.

But if you’re planning to save seeds from this year’s harvest, the smartest thing to do is to let that tomato or pepper or squash or cucumber ripen to the point of near bursting. That first-to-ripen fruit or vegetable is the earliest product of the hardiest plant and that’s exactly the seed you want to save for next year’s garden. That first-to-ripen seed will produce the most robust plant, able to survive pest attacks and weather extremes better than its brothers and sisters.

garden seeds in mason jars
My saved and leftover packet seeds are stored in mason jars to be used next season

If you’re saving seeds from a flower, find the best looking plant – sturdy, beautiful foliage and flower, best color, best growth pattern  – and harvest the seeds from that specimen.

The seed saving methods for individual plants are considerably different. If you’re saving seeds from a plant more complex than beans or peppers (open fruit, pull out the seed, let it dry), it’s worth your while to spend a little time researching the techniques specific to the seeds you want to save. The book that introduced me to seed saving and one I highly recommend is:  Saving Seeds: The Gardener’s Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds. There’s also some excellent information from the International Seed Saving Institute.

Preparing the seeds for storing

Once you’ve harvested the seeds, allow them to dry for a few days at room temperature on a paper towel or newspaper. Do not store them damp, as they’ll rot. Then put the seeds in a standard white paper envelope, roll the top down and mark the envelope with very specific information: The plant the seed came from, including specific cultivar if known; date it bloomed or fruited; company that produced the seed; and the month and year you harvested the seed.

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