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Save Your Vegetable Seed for Next Year

If you grow tomatoes, beans, squash or cucumbers, here's how to save seeds for next year. You'll save money and your vegetables will be better acclimated to your back yard.

It's that time of year again! The garden is winding down, the nights are getting cooler and now and then our thoughts turn to next spring and what we will do differently in the garden then. One thing you might think of doing differently is not going to the store and buying a bunch of packages of seed. Save your money for something else.

How? Save your own seed right now, while things are still growing. Since it's close to the end of the garden season for many of us, we can tie string or yarn around the most mature of the crop so we won't pick it before it's mature enough to set viable seed before frost. This goes for cucumbers, summer squash, beans and so on. The seeds must be mature to grow next year, so the vegetable in which they're encased must be mature.

There's only one problem - if you planted hybrid vegetables in your garden, the seed may not produce true next year. If you planted GMO seed, you probably won't be able to grow anything from it as much GMO seed is sterile. If, however, you've planted open pollinated, heirloom or organic seed, you'll be able to save seed every year and it will become more acclimatized to your garden and grow better each year.

Most beans will grow true to seed and any kind of bean will dry on the vine if you allow it, so choose a plant or two that has produced well and let enough dry for next year's seeds. Don't let the bean pods dry to the point they begin to split or you'll lose your seed. Bean pods grow downward and will thrust themselves into the ground, dropping the seed where it will germinate. Save the beans before then so you can plant when and where you want them.

Cucumbers ripen to a yellow gold before their seeds mature. Leave them on the vine as long as you can, but when you have to take them off, cut the cucumber in two, scoop out the seeds and let them dry. Save the larger, more mature ones. Remember that hybrid cucumbers may not grow true.

Summer squash can sometimes become very large. Let them grow as long as they want. They'll soon quit and begin to develop a tough skin and seed will mature. When you must bring them in, cut them in two, scoop out the seeds and let them dry. Sort and pick out the biggest and firmest to save for next year's garden.

Tomatoes are somewhat easier, since they will keep on ripening after they're picked. Choose a tomato that is of the size and shape that you prefer and let it mature on the vine or off. Cut it in two and scoop out the seeds, then let them set to ferment. Once they've fermented, rinse them off and put them in a safe place to dry. When they've completely dried, store them in a cool, dark place until time to start new plants next spring.

Corn is simple. Leave it until the kernels become hard and dry. It will not mature if you pick it too green. Strip the cob of the kernels or leave them on for storage. Make sure squirrels, mice and other nuisances can't get to the corn over winter. Be careful about corn because it's the one crop that is more likely to be GMO, hybrid and nonorganic. Check this year's packages to be sure.

If you save seeds this year, you'll be sure of your source for next year's garden.

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Comments (6)

I save and dry most all seeds.

This gets a bookmark for sure! Good article Pat!

Ranked #10 in Gardening

Thanks, Beverly!

Ranked #134 in Gardening

A very informative and well-crafted article, Pat. Unfortunately I arrived here in Colorado Springs too late in the season to plant a garden this year, but I will have one next year. What would an old farm boy ne without his vegetable garden?

Great ideas for sustainable living..voted

Ranked #10 in Gardening

I hope you get your garden next year, Jerry. Colorado Springs has a good gardening climate, I hear. Thanks, Francina!