Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
The best seeds to save and which to avoid
Saving seeds from your best plants can result in vegetables that are perfectly suited to your garden’s growing conditions. This means stronger, healthier plants and bigger harvests (at less cost). We’ll show you how easy it is to save seeds from vegetables such as beans, lettuce, onions, and peppers.
Saving seeds is what the old-timers always did. See why and better understand the benefits of saving seeds.
Best Vegetable Seeds to Save (and Those to Avoid )
The best vegetables to save seeds from include peas and beans, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce. Some biennial crops (for instance onions, carrots, chard and beets) are also worth saving. They flower in their second year, so you’ll need to overwinter these plants to collect their seed next season.
Choose the very best plants in your garden to save seed from. By doing this, over time you will breed plants that are ideally suited to your garden’s growing conditions. Only save the seeds of traditional, open-pollinated varieties.
Avoid saving seed from F1 hybrids, as they are bred from two separate parent varieties and therefore their offspring won’t come true. Read more about how hybrid versus open-pollinated seeds.
Also avoid saving seeds from the cabbage family. These plants easily cross-pollinate with other members of the same family, so you’re unlikely to get what you hoped for.
Saving Pea & Bean Seeds
The easiest vegetables to save seeds from are peas and beans. Towards the end of the season, allow some pods to dry out on the plant. Pick the pods once they’ve become leathery or crisp to the touch, and you can see and feel the beans inside.
Shell the beans and discard any damaged or very small seeds. Spread them out on newspaper on a warm windowsill. Allow them to dry for seven to ten days.
Fava beans can cross-pollinate with other varieties, so only save seeds from these beans if you are growing just one variety.
Saving Lettuce Seeds
Lettuces produce fluffy seed heads that are easy to collect seed from. The plants can get quite tall as they stretch out to flower, so you might find you need to stake them.
Once the plant has gone to seed, pull it up and hang it upside down indoors. After a few weeks, the seed heads will be dry. Rub them between the palms of your hands to free the seeds.
Saving Tomato & Pepper Seeds
Allow tomato and pepper fruits to ripen fully, then scrape away the seeds from the pith. Spread the seeds out onto paper to dry out for a week or more.
Once dry, remove the pulp around the seeds as shown in our video How to Prepare and Store Seeds From Your Tomato Plants.
Saving Onion, Leek & Shallot Seeds
Onions, leeks and shallots produce beautiful flowers in their second year. You’ll need to overwinter several plants of the same variety to flower the following season for successful pollination.
It’s easy to tell that the seeds are ripe when the seed heads have dried out and can be flaked off into a bag for cleaning and sorting, but you can hurry things along by cutting the heads a little earlier if you need to. First make sure the seeds are ripe: open up a seed pod, and if the seeds are black then they are ready for saving.
Leave the seed heads to dry out in a greenhouse or other warm, well-ventilated place. Once they’ve turned a straw color, rub the seed heads between your fingers to free the seeds.
Storing Your Saved Seeds
Clean your dry seeds before storing by carefully blowing away any remaining chaff, or separate out the seeds through a series of screens or sieves.
Store your seeds in paper envelopes labeled with the variety and date, and keep them in a cool, dark and dry place until sowing time.
See our full Saving Seeds Guide.