How To Collect Seeds From The Garden

Getting Back to Basics with Seed Saving

Seed saving is a lost art that seems to be making its way back to popularity with gardeners. Seeds are largely inexpensive to buy, making them an easy and economical way to grow your garden. But there are some reasons that seed saving is coming back into vogue in the home garden.The basics of seed saving - how to collect, dry, and save seeds to save money and grow a better garden

First, seed saving will not only save seeds but also save your hard-earned money. Store-bought seeds are cheap compared to transplants, but seeds you save yourself are free. And you’ve certainly noticed that the bill from your seed purchases can really add up! Second, when you save seeds from the best specimens in your garden, you will improve the seed stock year after year. The seeds will develop strong traits well-suited to your garden’s microclimate. And lastly, seed saving is immensely gratifying. How awesome is it be a part of your plant’s full life cycle?


Related: How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Plant the Garden with Seed Saving in Mind

The best way to start seed saving begins at planting time. When you plan out your garden, do so with the intention of saving seeds at the end of the season. Plant from seed or transplants with this in mind: you can only save seeds from heirloom or open-pollinated plants. They will be identified as heirloom or marked as “OP” on seed packages. Open-pollinated and heirloom plants have the best chance of growing true to the parent plant. Hybrid plant seeds risk producing different characteristic of the parent plants, or characteristics of only one parent in the hybrid. There is an excellent description of each classification here on

Once you have your seeds, be careful not to breed them! Plant different varieties of the same species apart to avoid accidental hybridization. If your goal is to build up a good seed stock for a specific variety, it’s better to keep them separate. You can stagger plantings of different varieties of the same species so that they flower at different times. This will help spread out the timing of seed collection. That said, plant breeding is fun! If you want to try your hand at plant breeding at home then check out this book.

Seed Saving BasicsHarvest Only the Best

Decide what traits you want to pass on to the next generation and prioritize those traits for harvesting seeds: earliness of fruiting, abundance of fruit, size of fruit, flavor, color, etc. Select the top ten percent of plants exhibiting the most desirable traits and save only their seed. Cull weak or otherwise undesirable individuals within the planting before they are allowed to flower. This will only leave the strongest plants, thus creating superior seeds.

How to Collect and Save Garden Seeds

Separate and Prepare Seed for Storage

Allow the fruit to completely ripen on the vine before harvesting for seed. In many cases it would be considered “overripe” by eating standards (for example, giant zucchini or bolted lettuce). Here are some general guidelines:

  • If the seed is in a fleshy fruit like squash or eggplant, scoop out the seed mass and place it in a jar with water at room temperature. Let it sit for a few days, stirring occasionally to loosen any of the flesh still attached to the seeds. After a few days, the viable seeds will be sitting at the bottom of the jar. Strain and then let them dry completely before storing.
  • Tomatoes are a bit different as they can benefit from fermenting. Read about How to Save Heirloom Tomato Seeds.
  • Some seeds inside fruit such as dry gourds and peppers are easy to collect. Cut open the fruit and remove the seeds to dry on a paper towel.
  • Strawberry seeds are on the outside of the fruit. In many cases, it’s best to start strawberries from runners rather than seed, except when it comes to Alpine strawberries. Read more on How to Collect Alpine Strawberry Seeds.
  • Find seeds within a flower bud on lettuce and marigold by cutting open the flower to reveal the seeds inside. Some, like sunflowers, are easy to find because the seeds are visible in the flower, whereas others can be tiny or tucked inside.
  • For seeds that are harvested dry, like poppy seeds or chives, let the seeds dry on the plant. Collect them carefully by breaking open the pod and shaking them onto a dish towel to separate them from the pod and stems.
  • It’s also best to allow seeds encased in pods, like beans and lilies, to dry on the plants. Collect them carefully by breaking open the pod and separating the seed from the pod and stems.

When the seeds are completely dry, seal them in airtight packaging and label with variety, growing location, and date. Seeds must not be kept where they will not be exposed to dampness or fluctuating temperatures. Store seeds in a cool, dry location for up to two years. Each additional year that seeds are stored reduces their germination rates.

Related: Printable Seed Envelopes for HerbsPrintable Seed Envelopes for Vegetables, Printable Seed Envelopes for Flowers

Collecting Chive Seeds - seed savingPlant the Seed

The more generations of plants you grow from your own seed stock, the better chance you have of showing marked improvement. Be sure to give some of your saved seeds away to other gardeners! Sharing your home-saved seed in your local area provides a source of improved seed that has adapted to local climate and soil.

Read more on seed starting in the Ultimate Guide to Seed Starting

Seeds, soil recipe, light, seed-starting containers, DIY grow lights, indoor and outdoor seed starting - it's all here and more!




About the Author : Debbie WolfeDebbie Wolfe is a mom of two rambunctious boys, wife, and work-at-home mom from Georgia. In her free time (when there is such a thing), she is in the garden or hidden away reading the latest post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama! As interests, Debbie is an obsessive crafter, home chef, and gardener. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and is a co-author and photographer behind the garden blog, The Prudent Garden; a collection of tips, crafts, and articles that highlight home gardening.View all posts by Debbie Wolfe

  1. Breanna Jonas
    Breanna JonasFebruary 16,16

    Hi! I have a ton of alium seeds from my neighbor. They have been in a paper bag in my basement since fall. Could you please tell me how I should go about getting beautiful plants from these seeds? I’m lost! Please email me a reply! Thanks

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