The Q&A Archives: Saving Seeds

Question: I am saving seeds from several types of vegetables for next year (tomato, squash, bell pepper, cucumber) but I really don't know what I am doing. How do I know which vegetables will work and which won't? What is the procedure to saving and storing a seed?

Answer: Don't save seed from hybrid plants, because when planted it will not mature identical to the parent plant. (A hybrid plant is produced by cross-pollinating two different parent plants.) Hybrid plants are labeled as such on seed packets and in catalog descriptions.

Save seeds from non-hybrids that you like. To save seeds from plants that reproduce with flowerheads (e.g., lettuce greens, bok choy, etc.), let some flowers dry and 'go to seed.' Collect seeds on dry, sunny days to avoid any excess moisture. As seeds begin to turn brown and fall off, hold a paper bag or container underneath and tap dry seeds into it. Or, tie paper bags over the flowerheads to catch falling seeds. Or, cut the entire flowerhead and stem when about 10 percent of the seeds are brown and dry, place it upside down in a paper bag, hang it in a cool, dry location and let the seeds separate on their own.

For plants with fruits (e.g., tomatoes, peppers) wait until the fruit is very ripe, but not rotten, to harvest. Dry the seeds completely on sheets of newspaper.

Dispose of stems and leaves. A screen or colander works well to remove chaff. Store seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.

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