Can you believe we’re already at this point in the gardening year? The time when we start thinking about which seeds we want to save for planting next spring. Surely I just planted the garden a few weeks ago! But alas, the season is moving by quickly and will soon be over, so seed saving needs to happen soon.
Saving seeds from this years garden so that you can plant them next year is a great way to save money! Continue reading if you’d like to learn the basic steps to saving seeds: harvesting, washing, drying, and storing. All of the info is just a few scrolls down. I’ve even included some additional gardening information at the very end of this post. Now let’s get to seed saving!
How to Save Tomato Seeds for Next Year
Keep in Mind
- Tomatoes, beans, peas, and peppers are the most ideal for seed saving since their flowers are self pollinating and their seeds require very little special treatment for storage.
- Seeds from biennial crops (carrots, beets, etc.) are much more difficult to save since they require two growing seasons before the seeds are ready.
- Choosing open-pollinated varieties or ‘heirlooms’ for seed saving since these plants will bear similar fruit and produce similar plants each year.
- Hybrid seeds can be saved, but it is not guaranteed that they will produce the same results the following year since they have been modified.
What You’ll Need
- Large cutting board
- Sharp knife
The first step in saving seeds from tomatoes is harvesting. Here are a few things to look for in a tomato that is desirable for seed saving:
- Choose fully ripened tomatoes. The viability of seeds increases when the fruit is given plenty of time to mature.
- Look for tomatoes that have desirable traits. If you want large tomatoes next year, pick large ones to save the seeds from this year. Avoid ones that are misshapen or show signs of other issues in attempt to avoid those same qualities in future plants.
Remove the Seeds
- Begin by slicing the tomato lengthwise (from the top to the bottom) into 5-6 pieces.
- Use your finger or a spoon to remove the seeds from each tomato slice. They should free quite easily with gentle scraping motions.
- Place the seeds in a jar.
Tomato seeds are in a sack that prevents germination while the seeds are still in the fruit and protects animals from digesting them.
Once this gel sack is removed the seed can germinate, so this is what we need to accomplish via fermentation.
- Add water to the jar of seeds until they are submerged.
- Cover loosely with a paper towel.
- Allow to sit at room temperature for 2-3 days.
- Check on the seeds each day to ensure that none are turning brown or beginning to germinate.
It’s time to dry the seeds after 2-3 days of fermentation. This is an extremely important step for storing successful seeds for next year! Seeds that are not fully dried will mold or fail to germinate when planted.
- Strain the tomato seeds from the water with a fine mesh strainer.
- Wash them in cool water to remove any residue from the tomato.
- Lay the seeds out on a paper towel.
- Move them around once per day to ensure even drying.
- Allow 5-7 days for drying.
- Use a sharp knife to cut through one seed. If it cracks in half, the seeds are completely dried out. If it squeezes, more drying time is needed.
There are a few options of storing seeds:
- Envelopes: this is a popular option because it allow the seeds to continue drying out and has a low risk of developing mold. You can then store the envelopes in a paper bag or cardboard box for airflow. Always keep the seeds in a cool, dry place.
- Sealed Containers: This storage method is more likely to develope mold, so ensure that your seeds are fully dry before placing them in a sealed container! A glass jar, plastic sandwich bag, or plastic food container should work well. You should also consider adding a food-safe desiccant packet to remove any remaining moisture.
Seeds that are properly fermented, dried, and stored should last for 3-5 years. Just note that the longer seeds sit, the lower your germination rates may be.
Can I Get Away Without Fermenting?
Yes, you can skip this step and go right to drying the seeds, but it may affect your rate of germination when you plant them next year. This means more may not sprout without fermentation.
Can I Use a Fan for Drying?
Yes! Just make sure it is on the lowest setting so the seeds don’t blow away when they dry out.
Can I Use a Dehydrator for Drying?
Yes, you can. Place the dehydrator on its lowest setting (around 85 degrees F) and dry them for a few hours.
Never dehydrate seeds at temperatures above 100 degrees F!