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The first step in saving seeds is to select sturdy, non-hybrid varieties of plants. Heirloom varieties of tomatoes, for example, will produce exact copies of themselves through generations of seeds if they are not accidentally cross-pollinated by insects along the way. When planting such varieties, you need to take care to keep them well apart. Some specialists recommend a minimal distance of 500 feet.

Saving Seeds: Tomato

To save tomato seeds, take fully-ripe tomatoes from the vine, cut them open, and squeeze the seeds into a bowl. The slimy coating around each seed will dissolve as the seeds ferment for three or four days at room temperature, with the bonus that the seeds will be immunized from certain diseases. Rinse the seeds in cold water and let them dry on a plate for several days; the larger the seed, the more time it takes to dry. Then place the seeds in an airtight glass jar and store them in a cool, dry place. Cucumbers, which also have gelatinous seed coatings, can be treated in the same way.

Eggplant

If you want to save an eggplant’s seeds, allow it to ripen fully until it turns yellow-green or gold in color. Then cut it in two and remove the flesh from the seeds.

Beans and Peas

Beans and peas are easily crossed within their own varieties, so take care to separate like kinds in the garden. Set the dry pods aside, then remove the seeds and, when they are completely dry, store the seeds in sandwich bags.

Lettuce

Lettuce varieties can be saved by letting plants go to seed, which means allowing them to grow to full height and to produce yellow flowers. Open the seed pods on a large piece of butcher-block paper and use a razor blade or modeler’s knife to separate the seeds from the chaff.

Whatever plants you decide to save, choose seeds from several specimens in case one individual is unhealthy.

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