How to Collect Seeds From the Garden

Storing and collecting seeds from our own vegetable and herb crops is a great way to save and perpetuate your favorite varieties year after year.

Open pollinated varieties are the best candidates to collect seeds and preserve them. Unlike hybrids, these varieties are more likely to maintain their genetic traits from generation to generation.

Some species of crops tend to pollinate themselves ( self-pollination ), while others require the intervention of insects or wind to obtain pollen from nearby flowers ( cross-pollination ). Peas, lettuce and tomatoes, for example, pollinate themselves and cross-pollination is unlikely to occur, even when several varieties are growing very close.

In those that are cross-pollinated, such as pumpkins and onions, genetic purity can only be ensured by cultivating only one variety completely isolated or in greenhouses, so that we avoid contamination. Likewise, this type of isolated crop is usually more viable in a professional manner than for home gardeners since we need a lot of space.

When it comes to collecting the seeds of the garden it is important to choose those plants that are healthier and more resistant , and look for those with the features that we would like to preserve. In those crops where early eared or flowering is not something we want, as in lettuce or basil, we will collect seeds only from those that are slower to flower.

A little later in the article we will talk about the techniques to collect seeds of some common vegetables and herbs , but before they are important some tips to take into account once you have done your collection:

  • Make sure that the seeds collected are completely dry before storing or packing them in jars or paper envelopes.
  • Do not forget to label the containers with the variety and the date on which you have collected the seeds.
  • Always store them in a cool, dry place to maintain their viability until the next planting.

Ways to collect seeds in vegetables and herbs

Pea seeds

01.seeds of beansUsually the peas self-pollinate properly unless they grow immediately next to another variety of peas; the ideal is to isolate the different varieties by at least a distance of between 3 to 6 meters.

To collect pea seeds we must let the pods dry completely in the same plant.

Although it is worth mentioning that, in extremely humid climates, it is often necessary to harvest the mature pods and let them dry inside; once they have dried completely, then we open the pods by hand and remove the seeds.

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To obtain seeds from beans, the same technique can be used.

Collect seeds of Basil

02.seeds of basilThe basil seeds are obtained through cross pollination produced by bees, if we want to keep the variety purer, we must isolate them by 45 meters or more.

We will let the seed heads dry on the plant. Once dry, simply “shake” or “crumble” the seed heads inside an envelope, in this way, we get the seeds to fall, we can blow carefully to eliminate the fluff.

Collect seeds of Lettuce

03.seeds of lettuceIt usually self-pollinates, although occasionally it can be the victim of cross-pollination by several insects, if we want to preserve it, we must isolate the different varieties by at least 3 to 6 meters.

The flowering and ripening of a single seed head lasts for up to four weeks , which means that we can not collect lettuce seeds at one time.
The way to collect them is to “shake” the heads of seeds, without removing them from the plant, in a paper bag or on several papers arranged on the ground, this procedure should be repeated every 3 or 4 days.

Another technique is to cut a seed head halfway through its ripening process and let it dry inside for a week, then simply rub between your hands to “release” the seeds. Remove the lint by blowing gently.

Leek and Onion Seeds

04. leek seedsBoth the leeks or green onions and common onions are cross-pollinated by insects, therefore, if we want to preserve the varieties we must isolate them for at least 1500 meters, (although they do not cross between leeks and onions, that is, we isolate the different varieties of common onion, but we can plant them next to the leeks).

Both the onions and the leeks are biennial , therefore the flowers, and therefore the seeds, will appear only in the second growing season.
Leeks, which in most areas are resistant to cold, except in the very extreme, can be left in the garden with mulching mulch to bloom next spring.
The onions are less resistant so we should choose the best bulbs to spend the winter stored and be able to re-plant them in the spring.

Once they have blossomed and the seed heads have formed, we will let them ripen and dry on the plant . In a moment, we will see that the black seeds begin to appear, that will be the moment to harvest them and take them inside so that they finish drying . Most seeds will fall when we shake them, for the most resistant, we can rub the head of dried seeds between our hands.

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Extract seeds of squashes and pumpkins

05. seeds of pumpkinThey are also cross-pollinated by bees and other insects, so to maintain purity we must isolate the varieties by at least 400 meters.

For summer squashes , we must leave some fruits unharvested (those we have chosen to obtain seeds ). The idea is to let them mature more, until the bark becomes yellowish and slightly harder.

For the zucchini and winter squashes , we will harvest the ripe fruits and store them for at least a month to give the seeds time and finish ripening completely before picking them up. To remove the seeds, cut the fruit in half and scrape with a chuchara , separate the seeds from the pulp as much as possible and let them dry well on paper napkins or rag for at least 2 or 3 weeks.

Collect the seeds of the Rabanitos

06.seeds of radishesThe radishes are cross-pollinated by insects, so we must isolate the varieties by at least 800 meters.

I must emphasize that there will be no pollination if we have only one plant , we need to have several plants in flower to produce seeds.

We will let dry the pods of seeds in the plant until they are brown and dry .

Finally, we open the pods and shake to remove the seeds.

Obtain the seeds of peppers and chillies

07.seeds of pepperMost of the time the peppers are self-pollinated, although occasionally cross-pollination can occur through the insects, so the varieties should be isolated by at least 150 meters.
To collect seeds of peppers and peppers we must let the fruit ripen completely in the plant, then cut and scraped with a spoon to remove the seeds, leaving them on paper napkins or coffee filters to dry.
If we are working with hot peppers , it is important to be careful when using gloves when handling them.
The seeds should be brown, beige or yellow, but never whiteIf they are bright white, it is because they are not yet ready.
It is important that you let the seeds dry inside for at least 2 weeks before packing and storing them.

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08 seeds of tomatoesNormally tomatoes are self-pollinated , so we can almost always get seeds from the tomato plants, eventually the insects could intervene, so, for greater security when preserving the varieties, we should separate them by at least 250 meters.

The better the fruit we choose to collect the seeds, the better will be the future plants produced.

Let the chosen fruit ripen then, cut it in half and remove the pulp containing the seeds with a spoon.

The issue with tomatoes is that the seeds are immersed in this somewhat gelatinous substance that, if we leave it, would prevent the seeds from germinating , so what we will do is place the pulp with seeds that we have gotten inside a labeled glass jar , we close it and let it ferment for two days in a cool and dark place.

After this time, we put everything on a colander or fine sieve and we will clean them under the water jet of the tap, we are stirring and rubbing them so that we can clean them and that we do not have traces of this “membrane” or pulp.

Then, we place them ideally on a rag, so that they do not stick, although you can also use paper napkins and let them dry inside , next to a window so that the sun gives it , the drying process can take between 4 or 6 days, but it is important that we move them around and turn them to dry everywhere. Once they are completely dry, we can store them.

These would be the usual ways of collecting seeds of the fruits of the garden , I have described the most usual, but at the same time, can give you a guideline of how to proceed with other fruits, according to the characteristic of the ” container of seeds “, that is to say , in which they are obtained from fruits, you could proceed in a similar way to pumpkins or tomatoes, in pods, you would use the techniques of peas or radishes, and in those that produce the seeds in the flower, you could use the technique of basil or lettuce.