How to Save Seeds from Your Garden to Plant Next Year
Want to grow your favorite annuals, perennials, and veggies again next growing season? Here's how to collect their seeds.
Many types of plants produce seeds that you can save from one year and sow the next. That way, you can easily grow the same varieties in your garden again. Plus you'll often end up with plenty to share with friends and family. And after the new coronavirus led to seed shortages earlier this year, it's just a smart idea to save seeds now in case that happens again next spring. The best plants for saving seeds are heirlooms, old-fashioned varieties, and open-pollinated plants, because the seeds usually grow into plants that look just like their parents. If you save seeds from hybrids, they likely won't grow into the exact same plants next year. But if you want to experiment and see what you get, hybrids can be fun to grow from saved seeds, too.
Tips for Saving Perennial Seeds
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 light covering of mulch. They'll wait out the winter and sprout in spring. Or, you can store the seeds and start them indoors in late winter or very early spring. Don't expect them to bloom their first year because the plants will use all their energy to grow roots and leaves; most will bloom the second year. Some of the easiest perennial flowers to collect seeds from include:
Directions for Saving Seeds
Perennial seeds are ready to harvest after the flowers are done blooming and petals have fallen off. Follow these steps:
- Cut flower head with scissors or a knife.
- Collect the ripe seeds from the flower head and place on waxed paper.
- Allow the seeds to dry for about a week.
- Clean the seeds by removing any husks or pods.
- Place seeds in an envelope and seal. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry location.
- 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 Seeds from Annuals
Just like many perennials, there are lots of annual plants with seeds that are easy to save. Harvest them after the flowers bloom, and follow the same instructions above for saving perennial seeds. Some of the easiest annual flowers to collect seeds from include:
Tips for Saving Fruit and Vegetable Seeds
The easiest seeds to save from your garden are cucumbers, beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes, and watermelons and melons. These fruit and vegetable seeds self-pollinate (instead of requiring pollen from a different flower to do the job) and are low-maintenance when it comes to the storing process.
How to Save Bean Seeds
You'll know it's time to harvest the seeds from your bean plants when the pods are dry, turning brow, and starting to open. Remove dry pods from your plants and allow the seeds to dry for two weeks on waxed paper before shelling. Store shelled seeds in an airtight container until you are ready to plant.
How to Save Cucumber Seeds
The time to save cucumber seeds is when the fruit on the plant is ripe. While you're harvesting cucumbers to use in your kitchen, set aside a few specifically for harvesting seeds. Remove the pulp with seeds and place them in a container. Then add a small amount of water to the container, enough to cover the number of seeds and pulp you have. Let the mixture ferment for 2-4 days at room temperature, making sure to stir occasionally. After a couple of days, the dead seeds will float to the top. When the good seeds sink to the bottom, pour out the pulp. Rinse seeds off with water and place them on waxed paper. Leave to dry for a week. Store dry seeds in an airtight container until ready to plant.
How to Save Pea Seeds
Similar to beans, it's time to start collecting pea seeds when they're dry, turning brown, and the pods are starting to split open. And much like beans, remove pods and allow them to dry for two weeks before shelling. Then store the shelled seeds in an airtight container until ready to plant.
How to Save Pepper Seeds
Harvest pepper seeds when the fruit is completely ripe; most varieties will turn red and begin to shrivel. At that point, remove seeds from the fruit and let them dry on waxed paper for 2-4 days. Then, place dry seeds in an airtight container until ready to plant.
How to Save Tomato Seeds
Save your tomato seeds when the fruit is ripe. You can squeeze or scoop out some of the pulp and seeds and still use the tomato in recipes, or you can set aside a few tomatoes just for saving seeds. Place the pulp with seeds in a container and add water to cover. Let the pulp ferment for 2-4 days at room temperature, stirring occasionally. After a couple of days, the dead seeds will float to the top. When the good seeds sink to the bottom, pour out the pulp. Rinse seeds with water and place them on waxed paper. Leave to dry for a week, then store in an airtight container until ready to plant.
How to Save Watermelon and Melon Seeds
Harvest seeds when the fruit is ripe. If you want to save watermelon seeds to grow next year, make sure you're growing varieties that produce seeds, not seedless watermelons. When you remove seeds from the fruit, rinse them in a strainer to remove all pulp. Then, spread the seeds on waxed paper and dry for about a week. Turn them once a day until they become completely dry. Place dry seeds in an airtight container until ready to plant.