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Now that my first year of gardening (in a while) is coming to a close, let's talk about saving seeds

coll Sep 19, 2012 01:08 PM

I am just drying them and sticking in a bottle, but guess there is more of a science to it than that?


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  1. d
    dfrostnh RE: coll Sep 20, 2012 02:44 AM

    I'm leery about the bottle. I only save a few things and it's mostly random. I'll leave bean pods in a basket to dry all winter. I'll put flower seed heads in brown paper lunch bags so they can continue drying.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dfrostnh
      coll RE: dfrostnh Sep 20, 2012 09:40 AM

      Until now, I just left whatever produce fell to the ground stay there and hoped for the best next spring! Now I have some seeds in paper envelopes and some in bottles. My own, from my Mom's, and from the local farmstand. Guess I should start taking notes on how they grow next year (probably not at all!!)

    2. DonShirer RE: coll Sep 20, 2012 03:58 PM

      Paper envelopes work ok for most flower seeds.

      Tomato seeds must be fermented over several days, as your link points out, which can be a little smelly.
      Here is a link to a different method which doesn't use fermentation and works in a few hours. I haven't tried it, but it looks interesting.

      5 Replies
      1. re: DonShirer
        coll RE: DonShirer Sep 20, 2012 05:31 PM

        It really is a little complicated, isn't it? I just bought a little bag of tri sodium phosphate, so maybe I'll experiment.

        1. re: coll
          jvanderh RE: coll Oct 15, 2012 07:20 PM

          I sometimes ferment tomato seeds and sometimes don't. You can also soak them in Comet for 15 minutes to get rid of the goop and kill germs, then rinse and dry. In my experience, they need a good 5-7 days of drying, otherwise they'll mold once you package them.


          1. re: jvanderh
            coll RE: jvanderh Oct 16, 2012 05:19 AM

            This is all so interesting! Although with the tomatoes, I'm tempted to start with some already growing from the local garden center, because the ones I grew from Burpee seeds took so long to come to fruit, I didn't get any tomatoes until September...then again, they were beefsteak type. On the other hand, my string beans, eggplants and Italian peppers were a huge success and I have saved some of those seeds. The cukes were an even bigger success, but those will be appear next year only if the one or two that dropped at the end of the season come back on their own. Talk about overload!

            I was feeling so confident that I bought a bunch of fall seeds....broccoli, cauilflower, kale, spinach, bok choy and lettuce. Some I started inside and some out. But although I had little to no problems with pests all summer, my seedlings disappeared as quickly as they showed their little faces. I'm guessing squirrels, due to the holes dug all over. What a bummer, and another reason I may go with some things already growing next year.

            1. re: coll
              dfrostnh RE: coll Dec 8, 2012 12:27 PM

              You might try covering the seed bed with a garden fabric. I use Agribon. I protected strawberries from critters this way. I think spinach does better planted for a fall crop. It's December here in NH and I can still pick spinach. Last year it started growing again very early in the spring. Kale also lasts a long time. I really like being able to extend the growing season. (Also still have carrots in the garden.)

              1. re: dfrostnh
                coll RE: dfrostnh Dec 8, 2012 01:26 PM

                I just noticed a few minutes ago that the leaves I thought were from dying radishes are actually tiny, tiny broccoli plants, the ones I thought disappeared. A friend who was visiting in October covered all my beds with leaves from the lawn and seems to have reactivated some things. Curiouser and curiouser! Guess I'll keep my eye out.

      2. Cherylptw RE: coll Dec 7, 2012 08:34 PM

        I save seeds from cucumber, several tomato varieties, several hot pepper varieties, bells, okra, butternut squash, acorn squash, turnip greens, green beans, yellow wax beans, watermelon, canteloupe, broccoli, green peas, zucchini squash

        2 Replies
        1. re: Cherylptw
          coll RE: Cherylptw Dec 8, 2012 03:34 AM

          I can't remember what I saved, but I will be trying to grow them come this spring. They were all Burpee so supposedly there shouldn't be any problem.

          1. re: coll
            Cherylptw RE: coll Dec 8, 2012 02:50 PM

            Most of mine were Burpee but not all; I'm hoping the re-growth is sucessful...I'll be keeping notes...

        2. d
          dfrostnh RE: coll Dec 8, 2012 12:28 PM

          I don't save tomato seed because I grow one plant each of about 12 varieties. Wouldn't they pollinate each other so that next year wouldn't be the same tomatoes?

          15 Replies
          1. re: dfrostnh
            Bacardi1 RE: dfrostnh Dec 8, 2012 02:06 PM

            Unless each tomato plant is grown about 20-25 feet apart, yes, they will/can cross-pollinate which wouldn't result in exact copies of the parent plant fruits. Even though tomatoes are self-pollinating, they can still be pollinated via insect, wind, etc., etc., like anything else.

            In addition, saving seed from any hybrid tomato varieties you grow won't necessarily produce true to form either, regardless of isolated you grow them.

            I don't bother saving tomato seed either. Not only is seed relatively cheap, but properly stored, a packet of seed can last you for YEARS. I literally have packets of purchased tomato seed that are over TEN years old, & still provide me with decent germination.

            1. re: Bacardi1
              dfrostnh RE: Bacardi1 Dec 9, 2012 03:27 AM

              Thanks for the info Bacardi1. I'm lucky to have a local backyard grower who sells individual plants @ 60 cents and growns probably three dozen wonderful varieties. Does the same distance hold true for winter squashes? That seed seems easy to save but this year I grew 5 varieties in the same big bed (one hill each).

              1. re: dfrostnh
                Bacardi1 RE: dfrostnh Dec 9, 2012 06:34 AM

                Unfortunately, since squash are not self-pollinating, they are even more susceptible to cross-pollination. Frankly, I wouldn't bother saving seed from squashes - especially from the plants in your "one big bed".

                If you're really interested in getting into seed-saving, I recommend researching the specific methods required to end up with the end product(s) you want. There're plenty of books & internet sites devoted to it.

                I've never been into it, since seed is relatively inexpensive for the amounts you get - especially since commercial seed is easy to save from year to year - & I enjoy trying several new varieties every season.

                1. re: Bacardi1
                  dfrostnh RE: Bacardi1 Dec 10, 2012 04:02 AM

                  Thanks, Bacardi1. I've been a lazy seed saver - just saving easy things like Scarlet Runner beans, Yard Long Beans, calendula and annual poppy. Johnny's has a new grey kabocha squash they think is better than Confection that we like very much. The photo looks like a different squash, not just an improvement. Since Johnny's is the only place I've been able to find Confection, I was thinking that maybe I should start saving the seed. Hope they don't discontinue it.

                  1. re: dfrostnh
                    Bacardi1 RE: dfrostnh Dec 10, 2012 08:43 AM

                    You could try saving seed from it, but then if I were you I'd make "Confection" the only squash you grow that season. Thus you only have to worry about possible cross-pollination via wind or insect from neighbors' gardens, which, if there's enough distance, would be minimal.

                    But again - I'm not a dedicated seed-saver, so you may want to do some online research re: exactly what you'd have to do to make this successful for you. It might not be as dire as I'm painting it. ;)

                    1. re: dfrostnh
                      Cybrczch RE: dfrostnh Dec 11, 2012 01:58 PM

                      According to Johnny's web site, Confection is a F1 hybrid. Seeds from it, even if you pollinate the female flower with pollen from the same plant, will not come true to type.

              2. re: dfrostnh
                jvanderh RE: dfrostnh Dec 8, 2012 05:06 PM

                Heirloom seeds will grow true to form no matter what they're grown with.

                1. re: jvanderh
                  Bacardi1 RE: jvanderh Dec 9, 2012 06:29 AM

                  Sorry - but that's definitely not true. (Look it up if you don't believe me.) Being an "heirloom" means absolutely nothing except that the plant was originally grown decades ago & is frequently (but not always) not a hybrid. It has absolutely ZERO to do with the possibility of cross-pollination. "Heirloom" seeds are just as easily cross-pollinated as newer non-heirloom varieties.

                  1. re: Bacardi1
                    sparrowgrass RE: Bacardi1 Dec 9, 2012 06:46 AM

                    I am a Master Gardener, and Bacardi is absolutely right.

                    1. re: Bacardi1
                      jvanderh RE: Bacardi1 Dec 12, 2012 01:00 AM

                      I'm not, but I've grown dozens of tomato varieties in buckets sitting next to each other, and to my eyes and tongue, the plants from saved seeds are true to the parent.

                      1. re: jvanderh
                        Bacardi1 RE: jvanderh Dec 12, 2012 08:21 AM

                        All that means is that you're lucky.

                        I repeat - do the most basic research - even just for the definition of "heirloom".

                        Again - A designation of "heirloom" has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether or not plants will cross-pollinate. If not accidentally cross-pollinated, heirloom seeds or NON-heirloom seeds (so long as they're not hybrids) will always produce true to the parent. However, whether heirloom or not, if the flowers of the plant (even tomatoes) are pollinated via wind or insect from another plant, seeds from the resulting fruit will be a crap shoot.

                        This is FACT; not just my own opinion.

                        1. re: Bacardi1
                          jvanderh RE: Bacardi1 Dec 12, 2012 10:57 AM

                          According to the Wikipedia article, most experts agree that plants must be open pollinated to be considered heirloom. This is my understanding- that they are varieties that were stabilized over long periods of time by people whose crops were pollinated by wind, bees, etc. I know the meaning of the term is contested. I'm not sure whether it's because the plants were selected for dominant traits or because the majority of the time it's logistically much easier for the plant to pollinate itself, but my experience has been that saved seeds breed true. Most of the places I buy seeds actually specify that they are open pollinated seed. So, saving seed may result in a plant with some small difference, but this may not matter to most people. This was done throughout history and is still done by many. I've saved seeds for years with excellent results. I think it's a fun part of the process, and don't want new gardeners who haven't seen the process up close to get discouraged by technicalities. My favorite tomato for years has been from saved seeds. It's very cool to see what grows best in your garden and save that, and to grow seeds from a farmer's market tomato that you particularly liked.

                          1. re: jvanderh
                            Cybrczch RE: jvanderh Dec 12, 2012 02:48 PM

                            Jvanderh - back in ye olde ages, when folks lived in nicely separated villages and not in the crunch we currently live in, you and your neighbors would be growing the same variety of tomato, bean, pea, because it was the result of selecting the ones that grew the best in your area. So no, they didn't have to worry about cross-pollenization, because there was usually nothing else out there.
                            Plants like tomatoes, beans and peas are pretty good at self-pollenization but without any form of barrier you can still get cross-pollenization from an errant bee etc. And frankly, if everyone in the neighborhood is growing big round red tomatoes, a cross might not be that noticable.
                            Now, plant zucchini squash, pattypan squash, acorn squash, yellow crookneck squash, and spaghetti squash (all C. pepo) close together, let nature do its thing, save the seeds, and see what a genetic mish mash you end up with the next year.

                            1. re: Cybrczch
                              jvanderh RE: Cybrczch Dec 12, 2012 05:40 PM

                              I'm not even remotely growing only big round red tomatoes.

                            2. re: jvanderh
                              DonShirer RE: jvanderh Dec 12, 2012 04:15 PM

                              Yes, we really ought to be talking about OP vs hybrid seeds.

                              My take on "heirloom" seeds is that they are the ones with nice background stories attached!

                  2. k
                    kengk RE: coll Dec 8, 2012 02:41 PM

                    I tried saving lettuce seeds for the first time this past spring and had great success.
                    Planted some of the saved seeds in the fall and the germination seemed to approach 100%.

                    From the half dozen plants I let bolt probably got $30 or more worth of seeds at the seed store rate.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kengk
                      sparrowgrass RE: kengk Dec 9, 2012 06:48 AM

                      I have a lovely fall crop of lettuce right now--because I was lazy and let my lettuce go to seed last summer. I didn't pull up the old plants, just ignored them. There are a few weeds intermixed, especially around the edges, but the lettuce is better now than it was in the spring--pretty, full heads and little slug/bug damage.

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