Saving Your Own Seeds


Part One. Planting Your Garden for Seed Saving


Seeds are living organisms and they adapt to the environment where they are grown. So...
saving seeds from your garden helps improve
performance, strength, and quality of plants.

To save money.

To be self reliant.

To preserve genetic diversity of plants.

To create or breed your own variety of a vegetable, or flower.

Following the Rules for Seed Saving

To preserve an heirloom variety or to sell your seeds.
You need to follow the rules.

To save seeds for fun.
The rules do not need to be followed so closely.
You do not need as many plants.
If you do not care about a little mixing, then you can plant different varieties closer together.
After a few years if your plants are not as healthy and strong, mix in some fresh seed from your original, or a different source. This will increase the genetic diversity within your plants but by using some of your own seed, will also preserve their adaptation to where you grow them.

To breed your own variety.
Choose two open pollinated varieties, that you want to mix together. Save some seed from all of the plants. The following year save seed from all of the plants. The following year, save the seed from only the plants which have the characteristics you want. The following year do the same. Do the same until all of the plants are the same and produce the same fruit. This will take six or seven years all together. But then, you can name the variety that you have created!


Annual. A plant that produces seed in one growing season.
Annual vegetables include tomatoes, beans, peppers, spinach, peas, lettuce, rapini, mustards, all squash, corn, broccoli, radish, and eggplant.

Plants that require two years of growing to produce seed. Plants require a period of cold to produce seed and can be overwintered in the garden under a thick mulch of hay.
Biennials include onions, leeks, beets, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, parsnip, carrots, turnip and celery.
Do not collect seed from plants that flower the first year.
Heirloom. Very old, usually more than 50 years, usually passed down through generations. Are open pollinated.

Open pollinated. The ability to breed, with offspring being the exact replica of the parents.

Hybrid. A mix of two or more open pollinated varieties. The first time seed is grown out, most plants are the same. However beginning in the second year, almost all of the plants are different. If you buy hybrid seeds or plants and save their seeds, you will be replanting in the second year of growth, and will get different plants.

Self pollinating plants. Are inbreeding. Flowers each have both male and female parts. One flower, with no bees or wind, can produce fruit. To maintain genetic diversity (as insects do pollinate these flowers also), grow about 25 plants for saving seed.
Self pollinated vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, peas and beans.

Cross pollinating. Are out breeding. Plants have separate male and female flowers, or need male parts (pollen) from one plant, and female (the stamen) parts of a different plant to produce fruit.
To maintain genetic diversity, grow about 100 plants, but as few as 20 can be used (corn requires at least 100).
Cross pollinated vegetables include brassicas, squash, onions, spinach, beets, carrots, corn and parsnip.

How to Plant Your Garden for Seed Saving

Plant one of each species.

Plant more than one of each species but allow only one variety to flower. This is possible with lettuce, radishes, spinach, and biennial vegetables.

Plant two of each species, but plant one very early and when it is flowering, plant the second variety. If only one variety is flowering at a time, then cross pollination will not occur.

Plant more than one of each species but use screened cages over each variety, alternately removing the cage from one variety one day, and the other variety the next day. If only one variety at a time is available to insects, then cross pollination will not occur.

Plant more than one variety but use bags over flowers and remove bags, pollinating the flowers by hand, then replacing the bags until fruit begins to form.

Plant more than one of each species but allow a large enough distance between them that there is no chance of cross pollination by insects or the wind. This is called an isolation distance.

Select your seed from the middle of rows or plots to minimize the chances of cross pollination. Bees usually begin at the edges of a planting when collecting pollen or nectar. If they have any residue from another variety, it will come off on the first few plants they come to. Plant flowers between your vegetables for bees to stop at along their way.


Plant > Family > Genus > Species > Varieties

When plants grow, varieties of the same species will mix with one another, through pollination by insects or the wind. This is called cross pollination. Therefore in order to save seeds, it is necessary to know which species your plant belongs to.

Part Two. Harvesting Seed From Your Garden


Select the healthiest plants with the best fruit.

Use as many plants as possible.

Do not use plants that do not perform well or are different. Remove these.

Collect seeds throughout the season. Some at each harvest is best.


Harvest at proper maturity. Tomatoes, melons, squash and peppers should be ripe. Cucumbers very overripe.

Harvest dry seed with low moisture content. Lettuce, brassicas, beets, and spinach should be dry.

Harvest when the maximum quantity on the plant is ready, or pick limbs or pods individually as they dry.


Dry seeds.

Dry seeds include peas, beans, lettuce, spinach, radish, and all biennials.

Umbel, podded, and clustered seed. Harvest whole limbs. Run thumb and finger up the branch when it's dry to dislodge seeds.
Pods can be crushed, and the large debris removed. Winnow what is left. Put seeds in a low sided container and use a fan, the
wind or your breath to carefully blow away what is not seed.

These types of dry seed can be stored at any stage (as long as its dry), and cleaned later.
Beans and peas should be removed from pods as soon as possible to prevent mold.
Spread out to finish drying until seeds become hard.


The second method is used for tomatoes, cucumbers and melons.
The seeds must be fermented.

Remove the sees and put them into a glass jar or yogurt container. Add some water. Stir vigorously. Let it sit for a few days until there is white mould on top.
Stir vigorously and add water (¼ - ½ cup). Let it stand for a couple of minutes. Carefully pour off the water (and yucky stuff) from the top of the container. It's okay if there are some seeds in it, these ones are no good.
The good seeds are at the bottom. Add more water, let stand a few more minutes and pour the water off (carefully) again. Repeat until the water is clear and seeds at the bottom of the container are clean.
Spread seeds out on a non stick surface to dry.

There are two methods of cleaning wet seed, depending on the vegetable.

The first method is for cleaning squash, peppers or watermelon seeds.

Remove the seeds from the vegetable when you eat it. Rinse seeds in a strainer. Spread out on a non-stick surface dry. They are dry when they become hard, breaking instead of bending.


Be certain your seeds are dry before storing. Never heat seeds to dry them. Never dry seeds in the direct sunlight. Never overuse silica powder as a drying agent because if seeds lose all of their moisture, they will die.

Store seeds in a glass or metal airtight container.
Muslin bags or paper envelopes absorb moisture and are good. Multiple packets can be placed in a canning jar for storage.

Label each packet of seed.

Seeds need to be stored in a dry, cool and dark environment with stable temperatures. The refrigerator is good. Cold temperatures slow down the energy consumption of seeds, so lengthens their viability time. The freezer is great, but only if the seeds are dry enough. Otherwise, seeds will crack when moisture inside them freezes and expands.

Squash needs to sit after it is picked for one month, to allow seeds to ripen properly.

Cucumbers, melon and watermelon, for two weeks or more.

Part Three. Appendix.

This is a list of vegetable families, with the species that they contain.

Any vegetables that are the same species will cross pollinate with each other.



i) LEEKS (allium, ampeloprasum)__(the family, the species)
ii) GARLIC (allium sativum)
iii) CHIVES (allium schoenoprasum)
iv) GARLIC CHIVES (allium tuberosum)
v) ONIONS AND SHALLOTS (allium cepa)__onions and shallots will cross pollinate with one another.

Isolation distance: 1.6km
Life expectancy of seeds: 2 years



i) RUTABEGA, SIBERIAN KALE (brassica, napus)__(the family, the species) __rutabega and siberian kale will cross pollinate with one another.

iii) RADISH (brassica sativus)

Isolation distance: 800m for radish. All else 1.6km.
Life expectancy of seeds: 4-5 years



i) BEET, SWISS CHARD, MANGEL (beta vulgaris)
ii) QUINOA (chenopodium quinoa)
Iii) SPINACH (spinacia oleracea)

Isolation distance: minimum 8km.
Life expectancy of seeds: 5-6 years


i) SUNFLOWER (helianthus annuus)
ii) LETTUCE (lactuca sativa)

Isolation distance: lettuce 8m. sunflowers 4km.
Life expectancy of seeds: lettuce 3 years,
sunflower 7 years



i) WATERMELON (citrullus, lanantus)__(the family, the species)
ii) MELON (cucumis melo)
iii) CUCUMBER (cucumis sativus)
iv) GOURD (lagenaria siceraria)
v) SQUASH, MAXIMA (eg. hubbard, most pumpkins) (cucurbita maxima)
vi) SQUASH, MIXTA (eg. Cushaw) (cucurbita mixta)
vii) SQUASH, MOSCHATA (eg. Butternut) (cucurbita moschata)
viii) SQUASH, PEPO (eg. zuchinni, acorn, spaghetti) (cucurbita pepo)

Isolation distance: 0.8km.
Life expectancy of seeds: 5-6 years,
cucumbers 10 years
The GRAMINEAE family


i) CORN (zea mays)
ii) SORGHUM, BROOM CORN (sorghum bicolor)

Isolation distance: 3.2km.
Life expectancy of seeds: 3 years


i) PEANUT (arachis hypogaea)
ii) PEAS (pisum sativum)
iii) BEANS, BUSH, POLE (phaseolus vulgaris)
iv) BEANS, RUNNER (phaseolus coccineus)
v) BEANS, LIMA (phaseolus lunatus)
vi) BEANS, SOYA (glyceine max)
vii) ADZUKI BEAN (vigna angularis)

Isolation distance: peas, bush and pole
beans, cow peas 15-20m.
Runner and soya beans 0.8km. Lima beans 1.6km.
Life expectancy of seeds: 3-4 years


i) PEPPERS capsicum annuum)
ii) TOMATOES, CURRANT TOMATOES (lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Iii) EGGPLANT (solanum melongena)
iv) POTATO (solanum tuberosum)
v) GROUND CHERRY (physalis pubescens)
vi) CHINESE LANTERN (physalis alkekengi)

Isolation distance: Peppers, 165m. Tomatoes 15m, potato leaf varieties 50m.
Ground cherries and chinese lanterns 50m. Eggplant 15-20m.
Life expectancy of seeds: peppers, ground cherries,
chinese lanterns 3 years, tomatoes 4-10 years,
eggplant 7 years



i) CELERY (apium graveolens)
ii) DILL (anethum graveolens)
iii) CARROT AND QUEEN ANNES LACE (daucus carota)
iv) PARSNIP AND WILD PARSNIP (pastinaca sativa)
v) FENNEL (foeniculum vulgare)
vi) CILANTRO (coriandrum sativum)
vii) PARSLEY (petroselinum crispum)

Isolation distance: carrots, fennel 0.8km. Others 1.6km.
Life expectancy of seeds: parsnip 1 year. carrots,
parsley, fennel 3 years. dill 5 years. celery 8 years.