Seed Saving Guide

Seed saving is an age-old agricultural practice that embodies the art of preserving biodiversity and cultural heritage. Rooted in the fundamental connection between humans and the land they cultivate, seed saving involves carefully selecting, harvesting, and storing seeds from plants that exhibit desirable traits.

Beyond its practical agricultural function, seed saving also serves as a custodian of agricultural history, safeguarding traditional crop varieties passed down through generations. In an era dominated by industrialized agriculture and commercial seed production, the act of saving and sharing seeds has gained renewed significance for its role in maintaining genetic diversity, fostering resilience in crops, and promoting sustainable farming practices. As communities increasingly recognize the importance of preserving agricultural biodiversity in the face of climate change and industrial monocultures, seed saving emerges as a crucial component of a resilient and sustainable food system.


seed saving


Why Save Your Own Seeds?

Economical Benefits: Saving your own seeds allows you to cut costs by eliminating the need to purchase new seeds for each planting season. This not only saves money but also promotes a sustainable approach to gardening.

Skill Enhancement: Engaging in seed-saving introduces you to a set of valuable skills, transforming you into a more knowledgeable and self-reliant gardener. As you navigate the complexities of the seed-saving process, you'll gain insights into the intricate life cycles of various plants.

Full Cycle Participation: Saving seeds enables you to be an active participant in the complete life cycle of a plant. From nurturing the seedling to harvesting and finally collecting seeds, you become intimately connected with the growth and reproduction stages of your favorite plants.

Self-Sufficiency: Seed saving contributes to your journey towards self-sufficiency. Relying on your seed collection reduces dependence on external sources, empowering you to sustain your garden with the seeds you've carefully preserved.

Enjoyable Hobby: Beyond the practical benefits, seed saving is inherently enjoyable. Witnessing the fruits of your labor, observing the development of seeds, and experimenting with different varieties can add a playful and satisfying dimension to your gardening experience.

Ring of Fire Sunflower

Pictured: Ring of Fire Sunflower (click for seeds)


Basic Seed Saving Guidelines

Follow these simple guidelines to ensure successful seed saving, even if you're a beginner:

  • Save seeds from heirloom (non-hybrid) varieties.
  • Collect seeds from a minimum of 6 plants of each variety.
  • Separate different varieties of the same crop by at least 10 feet to minimize cross-pollination.
  • Save seeds only from the best-performing plants, avoiding "runty" specimens.


Lunchbox Orange Sweet Pepper

Pictured: Lunchbox Orange Sweet Pepper (click for seeds)

Easy Seed Saving Crops

Consider focusing on the following easy seed saving crops for your seed-saving endeavors:

Harvesting Guidelines

Know when to harvest seeds for optimal results:

  • Tomatoes and Peppers: Collect seeds when the fruits are fully ripe or have changed color.
  • Beans, Peas, and Arugula: Harvest when pods transition from green to tan/brown.
  • Lettuce: Collect seeds when seed heads produce white tufts.
  • Dill, Cilantro, and Calendula: Harvest seeds when they turn from green to tan/brown but before falling to the ground.
  • Sunflowers: Gather seeds when the seed shell is hard.
Harvesting Techniques for Wet-Seeded Crops (Tomatoes and Peppers)
  • Tomatoes: Ferment seeds for about 3 days after releasing them from ripe tomatoes.
  • Peppers: Harvest seeds by cutting open the fruit, scrape seeds onto a paper plate, and let them dry.

Harvesting Techniques for Dry-Seeded Crops (Beans, Peas, Arugula, Lettuce, Dill, Cilantro/Coriander, Calendula, Sunflowers)

    • Follow specific guidelines for each crop, including drying times and methods for separating seeds from pods or stems.

    winowing seeds
    Winnowing - How to Separate Seeds from Chaff

    Learn the ancient technique of winnowing to separate seeds from chaff:

    • Set up outside: Use a box fan to create airflow.
    • Container placement: Position a container in front of the fan to catch seeds.
    • Turn on the fan: On low, blow air across seeds and chaff.
    • Seed placement: Pour seeds in front of the fan, allowing chaff to blow away.
    • Adjust as needed: Experiment with fan speed and working distance for optimal results.

    Embrace the art and science of seed saving, and enjoy the rewarding journey of cultivating and preserving the life cycles of your favorite plants. See our resources for more information.


    Download a PDF version of this guide.