Seed Saving 101

If you thought you could only harvest produce from your garden, think again. Did you know that you can also save seeds from this year’s harvest and plant them again next year?

Why Save Seeds?

Saving seeds offers a number of advantages you just don’t get when you buy your seeds in store every season.
When you save seeds, you can:

  • Save Money: Harvest seeds from plants you’ve already grown instead of buying new seeds every season.
  • Create Heirloom Varieties: Pass your favorite plants down through the generations by gifting seeds to your family and friends.
  • Grow Stronger, Better Plants: If you save seeds you know grow well in your region instead of buying expensive seeds that are designed to grow in different climates across the country, you can slowly develop varieties that are adapted to your region of the country.

Understanding Seed Varieties

Before you can start saving seeds, it helps to understand a little bit about different seed varieties.

There are three main seed varieties you need to know:

  1. Open PollinationOpen-pollinators: Open-pollinated seeds are pollinated by insects, birds, the wind, or any other natural mechanism. Open-pollinated seeds are more genetically diverse because they allow plants to adapt to local growing conditions year over year.
  2. Heirlooms: Heirloom seeds are passed down from generation to generation within a family or community.
  3. Hybrids: Hybrid seeds are created using a controlled method of pollination, in which the pollen of two different species are mixed by human intervention.

You can save any seed variety, but open-pollinated and heirloom varieties help preserve biodiversity, and also have the added benefit of adapting to your local growing conditions.

How To Save Seeds

Saving seeds is easy when you know how to do it, so let’s get started.

1. Choose which plants you want to save seeds from.

Self-pollinating plants like peas, beans, tomatoes, and peppers, are the easiest crops for seed saving. Try to save seeds from your strongest plants – consider how well they grew, how productive they were, what the produce tasted like, and how resistant that plant was to pests. Gather seeds from multiple plants to maintain and encourage genetic diversity.

2. Collect the seeds.

Collecting SeedsMost plants develop seeds behind their faded flowers. Look for pods or capsules. Here are some tips for saving seeds from some of our favorite vegetables:

  • Beans & Peas: Collect seeds when they are dry and the pods start to open.
  • Peppers: Collect seeds when the fruit is thoroughly ripe. Most pepper varieties will turn red and may even shrivel when they are ripe enough to collect seeds from.
  • Tomatoes: Squeeze the pulp from a ripe fruit into a container. Add water and let the pulp ferment for 2-4 days at room temperature, stirring occasionally. The dead seeds will float to the top, the good ones will sink. Save the good ones and dry them before storing.

Collecting dry seeds is different than collecting wet seeds. Here’s what you need to know to save both wet and dry seeds:

  • Collecting Dry Seeds: Let dry seeds get as dry as possible on the plant, then remove the seeds from the pods and store.
  • Collecting Wet Seeds: Leave the fruit to ripen fully on the plant before you harvest it, then scrape out the seeds. Wash and dry the seeds, using a strainer for tiny seeds. Let seeds dry in a warm, airy place. Never dry seeds in the oven or direct sunlight, or else you’ll damage the seeds.

Printable Seed Envelopes3. Label your seeds clearly.

Include the vegetable or plant name, variety, and year of harvest. Try using these printable seed envelopes.

4. Store your seeds.

Store seeds in paper bags in a cool, dark place with stable temperatures above freezing.

Get to Saving!

When you harvest your garden this year, harvest your seeds as well! Not only will you save a little money when you go to plant next year, but you’ll also preserve your strongest plants and contribute to the biodiversity of your area. Plus, saving seeds is a great way to keep your kids involved in the growing process from start to finish!


Susan Austin is Sales Director for Minigarden North America. She can be reached at susan@minigardening.com.