Birds & Blooms

Yard Smarts Collect and store seeds

Collect them now, store for later—it’s easier than you may think.


You likely know the satisfacti­on that comes from harvesting vegetables you grew from seed. Now imagine how gratifying it would be to start with seeds harvested from last year’s fruit. Feel that sense of achievemen­t by completing the growing cycle, in addition to knowing your produce’s quality and history firsthand. Follow these simple steps to store and replant seeds.

Pick the Best Ones

Some seeds must come from fresh, mature fruit, says Brian Sebade, a University of Wyoming extension educator. Winter and summer squash, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and tomatillos are all best when their seeds are harvested from vine-ripened and mature produce.

But seeds from peas and beans are best picked after they’ve dried on the plants. The process hardens the seeds and makes them better suited for growing.

Wash Carefully

Remove seeds from each piece of produce and strip away excess flesh. Place seeds in a colander and wash with cold water. Be gentle and don’t scratch them. Scatter seeds on a paper towel or newspaper, then let them dry on a counter.

Store Wisely

Once dry, place the seeds in a paper envelope and keep them somewhere cool, dark and dry until planting season. Be sure to label packets to avoid confusion later.

Test Them Out

A few weeks before you want to plant the seeds, take a dozen or so out of storage, wrap them in a wet paper towel and keep them in a plastic bag in a warm spot. Brian suggests unwrapping them after a week or two. The number of seeds that germinate will tell you how many of your seeds will likely sprout in the ground. If none grow, you may have a bad batch.

Beware of Biennials and Hybrids

While you certainly can collect seeds from carrots and beets, Brian cautions against doing so because both beets and carrots take two years to produce seeds, which means you need to leave the vegetables in the ground, taking up valuable garden space, for an extra year between plantings.

Plants such as squash and peppers can hybridize if planted too close to different varieties. Experts recommend against planting more than one type of squash or pepper in a garden if you plan to harvest the seeds to grow the same variety next year.

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