Saving vegetable seeds from your garden is not only a great way to save big money on your gardening budget, but an excellent way to grow healthier, stronger, and more productive plants with every passing year.

Whether it’s purchasing new seed, or buying transplants each spring, it can be expensive starting a garden. But not when you can save seed from your crops and grow your favorite plants again and again.

how to save heirloom tomatoes
Saving seed from your vegetable garden is a great way to keep unique plants from year to year like this green zebra tomato.

And it’s hard to beat the incredible feeling of starting and growing all of your plants from seed! (See : How To Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors)

Even better, saving seeds from the best of your plants can actually improve their performance from year to year. Here is a look at the basics of seed saving, including what seeds you can save, and how to save and store them.

How To Save Vegetable Seeds

Seeds To Avoid

When it comes to saving vegetable seeds, success all starts with knowing which seeds can be saved – and which can’t. Let’s start by taking a look at the seed of hybrid plants, which are not good candidates for saving.

replanting tomatoes
Seed from hybrid tomatoes will not produce the same tomatoes the following year.

Hybrid plants are a cross of two or more separate vegetable plants. When grown, the seeds from these plants will not produce the same plant the following year.

Instead, they revert back to one of their original crossed-plants, or most often, an undesirable new mutation. Often, plants grown from hybrid seed will result in plants that produce oddly-shaped, tasteless fruit. Or, in some cases, no fruit at all!

Seeds To Save

When it comes to saving seeds successfully, its all about selecting heirloom (open-pollinated) plant varieties. Seed from open-pollinated plant varieties bear the same crop year after year.

saving heirloom seeds
Our heirloom purple beans – one of our favorite to save and grow each year.

That means when you collect and save seed from these plants, you know exactly what you will get from year to year. And is there ever a wide range of open-pollinated varieties available – from tomatoes and peppers, to beans, onions, peas, corn, pumpkins – and the list goes on and on!

It is important to know however if you happen to grow more than one variety of an heirloom vegetable plant, they can cross to form a new plant. With this in mind, if you plant multiple varieties, it is a good idea to isolate a plant for seed.

Saving Vegetable Seeds – Choosing Your Seed

Now that you know what you can and can’t save, its time to start saving seeds! It is best to start saving seed from your plants around the middle of the harvest season.

picking peppers
Saving seeds from mature fruit in the middle of the season is your best bet for collecting high-quality seed.

If you select too early, the plants may have not matured enough to produce good seed. Wait too late, and you leave a better chance for the seed to cross with another variety.

Saving Vegetable Seeds – Selecting The Best Seed

Begin by selecting a couple of the best vegetables from your best plants. The seeds from your highest quality plants and vegetables are also most likely to grow strong and productive plants next year.

Be sure to pick only mature vegetables that have reached their final size and coloring. If you are growing more than one plant of the same variety, pick a few vegetables from different plants.

saving vegetable seeds
If saving seeds from your hot peppers, be sure to wear gloves to keep your hands from overheating too!

Not only will it give you adequate seeds to plant next year, it also guards against the chance any one vegetable having a bad seed core.

Drying & Saving Seed

Other than tomatoes, which we cover below, the process of saving seed is the same for all vegetables.

First, cut the vegetable in half and scrape out the seeds from the seed core. Lay seeds on a paper towel in a sunny or warm location to dry. Most seeds will dry out in about a week or two.

paper towel - saving seeds
Use a paper towel to absorb and help dry out moisture from the seeds.

Once the seeds have dried completely to the touch, place the seeds in a folded paper towel. This will help to absorb any remaining moisture.

Save your vegetable seeds in an airtight zip-lock bag or container in a cool, dry location until ready to use. You can also store chilled in the refrigerator until spring.

About Those Tomatoes…

Tomatoes, unlike other vegetable plants, require an extra few steps for saving. To create good seed, tomatoes actually need to ferment a bit before drying and storing.

This process helps to break down the outer protective coating on a tomato seed, allowing it to germinate the following year. It sounds technical, but it is fairly easy to accomplish.

saving tomato seeds
Tomato seeds need to ferment to allow the seed to germinate the following year.

Simple scoop out the pulp and seeds of the tomatoes and place in a jar. Allow the seeds and pulp to mold for a few days, and then wash off and dry the seeds like above. (See : How To Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds)

And once all of your vegetable seeds are saved and stored, you will be armed and ready for planting your garden next year – with zero expense! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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How To Save Vegetable Seeds From Your Garden For Planting Next Year!