Seed Saving

Tips and Ideas

Seed Saving Tips on Harvesting Your Seeds:

Saving seeds borne in a pod-like structure (beans, peas, lupines, hibiscus, etc.)

Allow the pods to turn brown, then harvest the pods, dry them for 1–2 weeks in a warm, dry area and shell.

Store the seeds in a paper bag in a cool (below 50°F), dry place.

The seeds of crucifers can carry diseases that will infect your garden. After harvest, soak seeds of cabbage in 122°F water for 25 minutes. Soak the seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower at the same temperature for 18 minutes. Pay attention to the time and temperature.

After soaking, dry and store the seeds in paper envelopes in a cool, dry place.

Petunia seed heads

Seed Saving Tips, borne in a flower-head (Marigold, Salvia, Petunia, many other flowers and herbs like Dill, etc.).

Cut off the seed stalks just before all the seeds are dried; the seeds may fall off the stalk and be lost if you allow them to fully dry on the plant.

Place the seed stalk in a paper bag or large tray.

Dry the harvested seed stalk or flower head, shake or rub the seeds off and store them in a paper envelope in a cool, dry place.

Seed Saving borne in fleshy fruit ( Heirloom tomato, cucumber, etc.)

Pick fully ripe fruit of cucumber and tomato and squeeze the pulp, including the seeds, into a glass or plastic container.

Add a little water and let the mixture ferment several days at room temperature, stirring occasionally. Sound, viable seeds will settle out; nonviable seeds will float.

Pour off the pulp, nonviable seeds and water and spread the viable seeds in a single layer on a paper towel to dry.

Store them in a paper envelope in a cool, dry place.

Scrape out the seeds of peppers, melons, pumpkins and squash and spread them onto a paper towel to dry. Then store them in a paper envelope as you would other seeds.

Saving herb seeds.

Seed Saving for herbs vary in the way their seeds are produced. In general, allow herb seeds to remain on the plants until nearly dry. Some seed heads, like those of dill, shatter as soon as they are dry.

Watch the early-ripening seeds; if they drop, harvest the other seed heads before they get to that point, leaving several inches of stem attached.


Tie several stems together and hang them upside-down, covered with a paper bag to catch falling seed, in a warm, dry place until completely dried. Remove seeds from the heads and store them in a paper envelope in a cool, dry place. Herb seeds for flavoring, such as dill, anise and cumin, are used when dry.

Mark storage containers clearly with permanent ink, indicating the cultivar of seed and date saved. Most seeds remain viable for years if properly stored in paper envelopes in a cool place.

Test germination in February by the traditional "rag-doll" test. Count out 100 small seeds or 25 large seeds and wrap them in moistened paper toweling. Squeeze out the extra water and place the "rag-doll" in a glass jar with the cover loosely fastened. Place the jar on a sunny window sill. Unroll the paper after a week and figure the germination; if germination is below 50 percent, either discard the seed or double the planting concentration to give the desired number of plants.

Be aware that if you want cross-pollination to occur in your garden for seed saving reasons, you need to make your garden favorable to pollinating insects or be prepared to do all the pollinating yourself. Grow plants nearby that attract pollinators–butterfly bush, Queen Anne’s lace, bee balm, salvia, and cleome are a few, and avoid using chemical sprays that will kill all insects both harmful and beneficial.

Hibiscus seed pod

In some cases you might want to keep cross-pollination from taking place.

Plants that are closely related, for example different varieties of squash, will cross-pollinate producing seeds that are a mix of the two varieties, giving you an interesting variety the following year.

If you want to keep your varieties true, plant similar species of plants on opposite ends of your garden.

Return to Seed Saving Tips From Your Garden and Nature

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