Saving Seeds

Many gardeners are interested in saving seeds. Beginning seed savers may want to start with bean, pea, lettuce, pepper and tomato seeds for the best success.

For beans and peas, let the pods dry brown on the vine before harvesting, about six weeks after the eating stage for beans and four weeks for peas. In case of frost, pull up the entire plant, including the roots, and hang it in a dry location until the pods are brown. Open the pods to remove the seeds.

Seed heads form on lettuce when the weather gets hot. Wait about two to three weeks after flowering for the plants to go to seed. Cut the entire top off the plant and allow it to dry upside down in an open paper bag. Shake the seeds from the flower heads and rub the heads with your hands to remove the remaining seeds.

Peppers have to be fully ripe (usually they turn red) before seeds develop. If a frost comes, pull the entire plant and hang in a cool location until the peppers mature. Cut the bottom off the fruit and reach in for the seeds. Dry them on a paper towel in a cool location.

For tomatoes cut the tomato in half and squeeze the seeds, in their jelly-like substance, out of the vertical cavities. “Place the jelly and seeds into a small jar. Loosely cover the container and store at 60 to 75 degrees, for three days. Stir once a day. The fungus layer that develops eats the gelatin and protects the seeds from disease. After three days, fill the seed container with warm water. Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of tomato pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Viable seeds are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the strainer onto a paper towel. Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two). Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label and store” (

It is best to store seeds in a paper envelope or bag so seeds don’t rot. Label the envelopes well.

October 10, 6 to 8 p.m., attend the free Cooperative Extension class,“Reap What You Sow – How and When to Harvest,” 2621 Northgate, #12.