Are your tomatoes bursting open from the rain? Is all of your lettuce three feet tall? Don’t send them to the compost just yet! Saving seeds is a great way to save money, preserve hard-to-find heirloom varieties, and take some of the guesswork out of next year’s planting. By collecting seeds from your own garden, you can choose your favorite plants to grow again and again. After a few seasons of growing seeds from your own garden, you may notice better harvests, tastier veggies, and plants that really thrive in your garden’s microclimate.
Once you’ve decided what traits you’re looking for in a plant – long season, early harvest, or yummiest produce, to name a few – pick out your favorites! Peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and broccoli are good ones to start with.
For veggies with dry seeds, in pods or seed heads like lettuce, let them dry on the plant as much as possible. When peas, beans, or other seed pods are dry and papery, crack them open to collect the seeds. Dried lettuce seeds can be collected by shaking them into a paper bag.
Tomato seeds should be fermented before saving. You can do this by cutting the tomatoes open and squeezing the goo inside into a jar. Add a little water then let the jar sit uncovered for a few days or until seeds start sinking to the bottom. Pour or scrape off the top layer, rinse the seeds, then lay them out to dry.
Check out this fact sheet from the WSU Master Gardeners for more information on saving your own seeds. This year we’re collecting seeds from tomatoes, dragon tongue beans, lettuce, radishes, arugula, and sunflowers in the garden. Let us know in the comments below what seeds you’re saving for next year!