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How to Harvest and Store Seeds?

You can harvest and store most seeds by waiting for the seed heads to mature on the plant, collecting them, and bringing them inside. 

Then, you should clean the seeds and store them somewhere dry and away from direct sunlight until you are ready to plant them next year.

Harvesting and storing your seeds correctly will give you seeds to plant next year, so it’s important to get the steps right.

If you don’t, your hard work will go to waste, and you will have to buy seeds from commercial growers. 

So, make sure you pay attention to how to harvest from each plant, as methods will vary depending on the kinds of seeds you are collecting.

Harvesting Seeds – The Basics

You can harvest seeds by collecting them from your plants at the end of the growing season, storing them over winter, and then planting them again the following season.

This method will work well for many varieties of vegetables, although not all. 

But, if you do it right, this technique stops you from needing to buy commercial seeds year after year. 

Thus, saving your seeds can make growing your own food much cheaper.

To harvest seeds, you generally need to wait until the vegetables have fully developed and the seeds inside have had a chance to ripen.

You should choose your most vigorous plants because this will encourage good traits in the new crop.

So, do not take seeds from plants that are weak or look odd, or the new crop may also carry those traits.

Read Also >> Why Save Seeds?

From Which Plants Can You Harvest Seeds?

It is essential to harvest seeds from the right kinds of plants.

Some are not suitable for harvesting and will not produce good crops again the following year.

For example, if you are growing F1 hybrids, you will probably find that it is not worth harvesting the seeds.

These plants produce particularly desirable traits from the parent plants, but they are not usually viable parents themselves.

Their seeds may be infertile, or the plant that grows from them may not be true to the parent, making it less productive, lacking in certain essential traits, or possibly even inedible.

Thus, it’s rarely worth harvesting F1 hybrid seeds for these reasons.

You can tell if your plant is an F1 hybrid by reading the packet carefully or researching the variety name.

So, although F1 hybrids tend to be the best vegetables, sadly, you cannot reliably grow them from your own seed. 

For that reason, it’s best to avoid them if you want to harvest seeds.

Similarly, some other plants are poor choices for harvesting seeds, including sweetcorn and squash.

These vegetables aren’t suitable to harvest seeds from because they will readily cross-pollinate with other similar (but not identical) varieties. 

Therefore, their seeds will rarely be true to the parent plant.

Plus, vegetables grown from these seeds will often have undesirable characteristics or will be inedible because the seeds have taken traits from a wild plant that isn’t safe to eat.

If you do want to save the seeds from such plants, you will need to minimize the risk of cross-pollination, but it may be better to buy seeds for these plants each year instead.

However, there are plants that you can easily save the seeds from, and these include:

  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
  • Beans

Read Also >> The Definitive Guide to Crossbreed Plants

How Do You Save Seeds?

The method for saving seeds varies depending on the plant, so you need to tailor your procedures to the variety. 

Below, you’ll find how to harvest seeds from some of the most common varieties of vegetables. 

Peppers

You can save pepper seeds by harvesting them when the fruit has ripened and then started to wrinkle.

Once this process has happened, you can collect the seeds.

Then, you should spread them on a paper towel to dry before storing them.

Tomatoes 

Similarly, you can save tomato seeds by taking a fully ripe tomato from the plant and scraping out the pulp.

Next, put the pulp in a jar of water and swirl it every day for a few days.

This technique should free the seeds from the pulp and encourage them to sink.

Finally, drain and rinse the seeds, put them on a paper towel to dry before storage, and discard the pulp.

Peas and Beans

You can harvest pea seeds and bean seeds by allowing the pod to ripen on the plant and then leaving it until it starts to turn brown.

When it has started browning, you should pick the pod and place it in a warm spot indoors to dry out for at least two weeks.

Then, shell and store it.

Or, you can leave the pod intact until you are ready to plant the following spring.

Either of these methods will work, but leaving the pod intact takes up more space, so it may be better to shell your pods.

Read Also >> Hybrid vs. Heirloom Plants

How Should You Store Seeds?

First, make sure your seeds are completely dry, as wet seeds will quickly turn moldy in storage.

Thus, leave your seeds on the paper towels until they have fully dried out.

Then, while they are drying, you should get some small envelopes to store your seeds.

Many people use paper for storage as it is easy to label, but plastic will ensure the seeds stay dry. 

So, you can experiment with both and decide which is better for you.

But, if you are going to use paper, make sure you store the seeds in a very dry location, away from all dampness.

Next, carefully label all of your seeds, so you know the variety and date you collected them. 

Proper labeling makes it easier to use your seeds correctly each year, and also gives you valuable information about which plants are doing well and which are struggling.

You should then put the seed envelopes in an airtight container and place them somewhere cool and dark, away from any hungry rodents.

Additionally, remember that you should avoid keeping seeds in a greenhouse or on a hot porch, as heat will destroy most seeds and make them unviable.

Instead, place them in a cool, dark cupboard or shed above ground level so that rodents cannot easily reach them.

Conclusion

It’s easy to harvest and store the seeds of some plants, especially varieties like peppers and tomatoes. 

And harvesting is a great way to ensure you can grow the plant year after year, which keeps your growing costs down. 

However, some seeds, such as F1 hybrids or most squash plants, are not easy to harvest because they are rarely true to the parent plant.

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