Tips for Saving Seeds

Save the seeds of your favorite plants to save money and share with friends and family!

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Saving seeds has long been the primary way to pass plants down from generation to generation. Continue the tradition of sharing the best of nature's gifts by saving seeds in your garden.

The best plants for saving seeds are heirlooms, old-fashioned varieties, and open-pollinated plants. This is because the seeds usually grow into plants that look like their parents. Seeds saved from hybrids will not usually grow into the same plants as their parents.

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Tips for Saving Perennial Seeds

Save your precious perennial seeds for next year! You can plant most perennial seeds in the garden starting in fall. Start them in a protected spot in loose, well-drained soil. Water them well after planting, and give them a covering of mulch. They'll readily sprout in spring.

Plants like polka-dot plants (Hypoestes phyllostachya) are tropical perennials and can easily be moved to indoor pots for the winter. Even false sunflowers will fight the advancing seasons and bring a spot of gold to the living room. These perennial garden seeds will last all through winter until you are ready to plant.

Some of the easiest perennial flowers to collect seeds from include: 

Ready for harvest when: Flower is ripe.

Perennial seed-saving supplies:

  • Scissors or knife
  • Waxed paper
  • Envelope
  • Airtight container

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Cut flower head with scisscors or knife.
  2. Collect the ripe seeds from flower head and place on waxed paper.
  3. Allow the seeds to dry for about a week.
  4. Clean the seeds by removing any husks or pods.
  5. Place seeds in envelople and seal. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry location.
  6. Sow the seeds in spring. You can plant them directly in the garden, or get a jump on the season and start them early indoors.

Tips for Saving Annual Seeds

The flowers of poppy, pansy, and snapdragon may be gone, but the marvelous seedpods are still there. Fall also brings out the glorious colors of flowering kales and cabbages, plants that need the nip of frost not only to grow but also for their colored leaves to shine.

Some annuals, such as bedding begonias or ageratums, can be dug up and placed in small pots, where they will continue to produce flowers until the very short days of December. Pansies will bloom all winter long in areas of the country where winters are mild, but they'll even persist in northern gardens until almost the end of the year, or until snows get too deep for casual walks to the garden. Sweet alyssum, too, will keep flowering far into fall.

Just like perennials, these annual seeds are easy to save. Some of the easiest annual flowers to collect seeds from include:

Ready for harvest when: Flower is ripe.

Annual seed-saving supplies:

  • Scissors or knife
  • Waxed paper
  • Envelope
  • Airtight container

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Cut flower head with scisscors or knife. 
  2. Collect the ripe seeds from flower head and place on waxed paper.
  3. Clean the annual seeds by removing any husks or pods and allow to dry completely.
  4. Place seeds in envelope and seal. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry location.
  5. Sow the seeds in spring. You can plant them directly in the garden, or get a jump on the season and start them early indoors.

Tips for Saving Fruit and Vegetable Seeds

The easiest seeds to save from your garden are cucumbers, beans, peaspepperstomatoes, and watermelons and melons. These fruit and vegetable seeds self-pollinate and are low-maintenance when it comes to the storing process.

When saving seeds, make sure to choose open-pollinated seeds instead of hybrid seeds. Open-pollinated seeds that self-pollinate or cross-pollinate will produce plants similar to their parent plant, unlike hybrids.

Beans

Ready for harvest when: The seeds dry, are turning brown, and the pods start to open.

Bean seed-saving supplies:

  • Waxed paper
  • Envelope
  • Airtight container

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Remove pods from bean.
  2. Place pods on waxed paper and allow seeds to dry for two weeks before shelling.
  3. Place dry seeds into envelope and seal. Place the envelope in an airtight container until you are ready to plant.

Cucumbers

Ready for harvest when: Fruit is ripe.

Cucumber seed-saving supplies:

  • Knife
  • Container
  • Waxed paper
  • Envelope
  • Jar with airtight lid

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Cut cucumber with knife and squeeze out pulp seeds. Place seeds in a container.
  2. Add a small amount of water to container. Let the pulp ferment for two to four days at room temperature, making sure to stir occasionally. After a couple of days, the dead seeds will float to the top.
  3. When the good seeds sink to the bottom, pour out the pulp. Rinse seeds with water and place seeds on waxed paper. Leave to dry for a week.
  4. Place dry seeds in envelope and seal closed. Then place the envelope in an airtight container until ready to plant.

Peas

Ready for harvest when: The seeds dry, are turning brown, and the pods start to open.

Pea seed-saving supplies:

  • Waxed paper
  • Airtight container

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Remove pods from pea.
  2. Place pods on waxed paper and allow to dry for two weeks before shelling.
  3. Place dry seeds in envelope and seal. Place the envelope in an airtight container until ready to plant.

Peppers

Ready for harvest when: Fruit is thoroughly ripe (most varieties will turn red and begin to shrivel).

Pepper seed-saving supplies:

  • Waxed paper
  • Envelope
  • Airtight container

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Remove seeds from pepper.
  2. Place on waxed paper and allow seeds to dry in a warm, dry spot of your home. Leave for two to four days until completely dry.
  3. Place dry seeds in envelope and seal. Place envelope in an airtight container until ready to plant.

Tomatoes

Ready for harvest when: Fruit is ripe.

Tomato seed-saving supplies:

  • Knife
  • Container
  • Waxed paper
  • Envelope
  • Airtight container

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Cut tomato with knife and squeeze out pulp seeds. Place in a container.
  2. Add a small amount of water to container. Let the pulp ferment for two to four days at room temperature, making sure to stir occasionally. After a couple of days, the dead seeds will float to the top.
  3. When the good seeds sink to the bottom, pour out the pulp. Rinse seeds with water and place seeds on waxed paper. Leave to dry for a week.
  4. Place dry seeds in envelope and seal closed. Then place the envelope in an airtight container until ready to plant.

Learn how to grow heirloom varieties.

Watermelon & Melon

Ready for harvest when: Fruit is ripe.

Melon seed-saving supplies:

  • Knife
  • Strainer
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Waxed paper
  • Envelope
  • Jar with airtight lid

Directions for saving seeds:

  1. Cut melon with knife and scoop seeds. Place seeds in strainer.
  2. Rinse seeds and remove the pulp. Add one drop of dish soap to clean the seeds.
  3. Spread the seeds on waxed paper and dry for about a week. Turn them once a day until they become completely dry.
  4. Place dry seeds in envelope and seal closed. Then place the envelope in an airtight container until ready to plant.
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