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How to Save Seeds

Learning how to save seeds gives you a nearly-continuous supply of seeds that are adapted to your area at little or no cost. 

When a plant produces seeds, that normally completes the life cycle of the plant. Harvesting and saving seeds from your plants is a simple process, a great way to save money and very rewarding.

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How to Save Seeds #seedsaving

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One of my earliest gardening memories is discovering that a dried marigold flower contains dozens of marigold seeds. I couldn’t believe my luck – free seeds! I planted one of those seeds and was hooked on gardening for life. If you learn the basic principles for how to save seeds, I think you’ll be hooked too.

6 Tips for How to Save Seeds

How to Save Seeds #seedsaving

1. Learn a little seed terminology before you save seeds

A basic understanding of the way seeds are pollinated and produced will help you be successful at seed saving. 

  • Self-pollinating crops typically pollinate themselves without help from insects or other plants. Self-pollinating plants, such as beans, peas, and tomatoes, are good choices for first-time seed-savers. 
What are self-pollinating seeds infographic
  • Open-pollinated plants, such as pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and corn, will cross-pollinate, meaning the seeds from one variety can be affected by pollen from a neighboring plant. If you are growing more than one type of open-pollinated plant near each other, do not save seeds from resulting fruit as they may have cross-pollinated.
What are open-pollinated seeds infographic
How to Save Seeds #seedsaving
Armenian cucumber cross-pollinated with canteloupe
  • Hybrid plants – Do not save seeds from hybrid plants. Hybrid plants (F1) are two varieties that have been cross-pollinated to produce a third variety with desired traits from the “parents”. Seeds from hybrid plants will not be “true to type”. 
What are hybrid seeds infographic
  • Heirloom seeds – Most heirloom varieties are good choices for saving. The seed has often been handed down for several generations (normally at least 50 years).
What are heirloom seeds infographic

2. Save seeds from only the best plants and fruit

Do not save seeds from diseased fruit or plants. When you save seeds, you are selecting which traits you want to continue. Choose the best tasting and healthiest fruit and plants from which to save seeds. 

How to Save Seeds #seedsaving
Hyacinth bean vine seeds
How to Save Seeds #seedsaving
Luffa seeds

3. Seeds for saving must be fully developed on the plant or vine

The perfect time to pick a plant to eat is often not the best time to pick a seed. Seeds need extra time to develop and become viable. The life cycle of the plant concludes with producing and developing seeds. Be patient and let the seeds develop and mature on the plant. 

How to Save Seeds #seedsaving
Artichoke seeds

4. Learn how to harvest and dry both “wet” and “dry” seeds

  • Wet seeds, such as tomato and cucumber seeds, often need to be fermented to remove pulp and germination-inhibiting substances. As the seeds ferment, the pulp separates from the viable seeds. After the coating is removed, rinse seeds and spread them out on wax paper. Allow the seeds to completely dry out for a week or longer depending on size. 
  • Saving dry seeds is often simple. Harvest the pods and heads in a brown paper sack. Once the seed pods are completely dry, shake out or crumble the pods to remove the seeds. Let the seeds continue to dry in a brown paper sack for a few weeks until completely dried out. Examples of dry seeds: Sunflower, hollyhock, artichoke
How to Save Seeds #seedsaving
Fermenting cucumber seeds before saving

5. Once seeds are thoroughly dry, store saved seeds correctly

Drying out the seed is an important part of saving seeds. Seeds that haven’t dried properly often become moldy. Place seeds in paper envelopes, or for longer storage, store them in mason jars. Be sure to label seeds with the type of seed and the date harvested. Store seeds in a dark, cool, and dry place.  

How to Save Seeds #seedsaving
Sunflower, marigold, and hollyhock seeds

6. Share your saved seeds with others

Set aside some seeds to plant next year, and then share the extras in a seed swap or donate them to a local seed library. Garden seeds also make great gifts for gardeners.  

How to Save Seeds #seedsaving

Did you learn something from this article? Share it with others and begin observing the plants around you. Also, watch the life cycle of your plants. For instance, how do they make seeds? Can you save them? What seeds do you have success in saving? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

How to Save Seeds #seedsaving
How to Save Seeds #seedsaving

What do you want to read next?

Debbie Smith

Wednesday 20th of April 2022

How long can you save harvested seeds? I have several I have saved from last year and more that I ordered online but have just found out I will be unable to have a garden this year. I'm hoping they will still be good for next year.

Angela Judd

Thursday 21st of April 2022

Here is a blogpost that may be helpful:

Cindy Handrick

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

First, I want to tell you how much I have enjoyed your videos and your posts. I look for a new post almost every day! I could do a better job at saving seeds and that has become my goal. I struggle with geraniums. How and when is the best time to "harvest" geranium seeds?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

Thank you! Leave the flowers on the plant at the end of the season and allow the seed pods to develop, and then harvest the seed heads in a paper sack before they burst and allow to dry.


Tuesday 5th of October 2021

Thank you so much for your amazing knowledge on plants. Very inspirational A great read and one to refer to again for future reference. Thanks Angela

Angela Judd

Tuesday 5th of October 2021

So kind of you to say, thank you!

Debra Hafer

Friday 11th of June 2021

“seeds for saving “ do i understand that when the plant done producing leave a few fruit to mature fully then harvest for seed?

great article. thank you.


Angela Judd

Friday 11th of June 2021

Yes, that's it in a nutshell.


Saturday 24th of April 2021

You mentioned fermenting the wet seeds. How exactly do you do that?

Angela Judd

Sunday 25th of April 2021

Put the seeds in a jar and cover with an inch or two of water. Let them sit in the water (it will begin to smell and ferment). During fermentation, bad seeds generally float to the surface of the water while good, viable seeds sink to the bottom. Ferment the seeds long enough to release the clean seeds from the pulp without waiting so long that the seeds start to sprout. (Usually 1-3 days) Pour off the top layer of water with the pulp and bad seeds. The viable seeds will be at the bottom of the jar. Dry the viable seeds on a paper plate or wax paper.