Our ornamental peppers in the landscape - we grow all of them from saved seed each year.
Our ornamental peppers in the landscape – we grow all of them from saved seed each year.

One of the most rewarding experiences for a home gardener is growing their own plants from seeds saved from the previous year. Not only is it an economical way to grow – but there’s something magical about seeing a plant take shape from your own seed.

We save heirloom tomato and pepper plants for growing in the garden – but by far our biggest “seed-saving” operation comes from the ornamental peppers we grow.

There is something so exciting about starting plants from your own saved seeds
There is something so exciting about starting plants from your own saved seeds

When you plant as many as we do around the farm – in mass plantings, flower pots and hanging baskets – you have no choice but to grow your own from seed!  Last year we grew the Sangria, Poinsettia and Tequila Orange and Chinese Lantern varieties – and will probably add a few more this year as well.

Whatever your choice – saving seed is not a hard process at all.  However, there are a few basic things you need to know to ensure success.

The Basics Of What To Save:

From just a handful of peppers - we saved close to 400 seeds.
From just a handful of peppers – we saved close to 400 seeds.

First, concentrate on heirloom or standard varieties – they are the easiest for the home gardener to preserve and grow.  These plants are open-pollinated and will produce the same crop year after year. Many standard varieties of peppers, beans, and tomatoes can be saved and grown year after year.

Hybrid plant seeds on the other hand should be avoided. Hybrids are created by crossing specific parent plants. Many times, the seed of hybrids will be sterile or will not reproduce a flower or fruit that resembles anything close to what the original plant created.  Many hybrids produce beautiful flowers or fruits, but it is best to purchase that seed each year to produce the identical results.

Unlike hybrid varieties - seeds from heirloom tomatoes like this Brandywine can be easily saved from year to year
Unlike hybrid varieties – seeds from heirloom tomatoes like this Brandywine can be easily saved from year to year

One other note – even if your plants are heirloom and/or self pollinating varieties – don’t be surprised if your plants change a little from year to year. Some plants’ flowers are open pollinated by insects, wind, birds and other wildlife – and they can be crossed with other varieties of the same plant that are nearby. The only true way to maintain the exact original variety would be to isolate the plants or plant them hundreds of yards apart from each other – something that is hard for many small home gardens to accomplish.

When and What To Harvest:

We let the pods on our Sangria plants dry right on the plants before picking and saving the seed
We let the pods on our Sangria plants dry right on the plants before picking and saving the seed

When saving your seed, always harvest from the best your garden has to offer. Select plants that are healthy and with the qualities that you find to be most attractive.

You will want to harvest seed from flowers or fruit that has matured – and that is why fall is the perfect time to collect your seeds.  Many peppers and beans have fully matured and their seed pods are fully developed. We let our ornamental pepper seeds dry right on the pods of the plants before picking them in late fall to save the largest of the seeds.

Storage of Seeds:

We start almost all of our seeds on our home built seed starting rack
We start almost all of our seeds each spring on our home built seed starting rack

The most important part of storing seeds is to keep them dry and cool. After drying our seeds, we store them folded up in a paper towel and place in a canning jar or envelope in one of the cooler rooms of the house.  If you happen to have any of the cilica gel packets that sometimes are packed in electronics or shoes – you can place one in with your seeds to help keep out the moisture.

Refrigerators can be a good place to store seeds as well, with the cool temperatures helping to preserve them. Although if your like us, space is hard to find!  All things considered, we have never had a problem keeping them in an old desk drawer in one of the cooler room of the house.

One final note – make sure to label your saved seeds with their name and date.  Speaking from personal experience –  it can make for quite the surprise when you grow an entire tray of tequila orange peppers from what I thought should have been jalapenos.  Let’s just say I learned to mark the envelopes a little better after that!

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Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary!

6 thoughts on “The Basics Of Saving Seeds From Your Garden And Landscape

  • October 16, 2013 at 8:42 am
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    I recycle my medicine/vitamin bottles for my seeds. Easy to label and with larger seeds (beans, peas) put a piece of cracker in and with small a few grains of white rice…I’m new at this and only managed petunias, tomatoes and peppers. My first home and so many firsts at 58 yrs. young. Went a little crazy with not knowing what would grow where w/sun and soil…But! Sooo much fun….almost everything (vegi & flowers) blessed me…my first sunflowers ever, got about 12 ft. and the sugar peas (dwarf) got 6 ft. and had fragrant purple petunias (saved seeds) growing everywhere…got so many pictures, just couldn’t stop…it felt good for the high school photography class stop by yesterday to take pictures….

  • October 1, 2013 at 9:18 am
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    I have a question – how to you label your seedlings without the writing fading and keep track of where each variety is in the garden? I’m finding it hard to keep my labels legible. Thanks!

    • October 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm
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      We use a permanent sharpie marker to mark our seeds and for the garden – we paint stakes with the names of the varieties on them.

    • October 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm
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      I cover the writing with see through tape and the writing stays well

  • October 1, 2013 at 9:01 am
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    HI …Love your articles ! Where is your seed starting rack ? In your house or garage ? How cold does it get in the room you keep it in during winter. I’m trying to figure out a place and way to start seeds in the spring, very cold where I live. I can build a rack like yours but not sure where to keep it.
    Thanks so much
    Rue

    • October 1, 2013 at 9:13 pm
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      We keep ours in an extra bedroom upstairs that seems to stay warmer than all the rest – I would use the warmest room you can find.

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