GARDENERS FACTSHEET NO. 23
SOME TIPS ON SAVING VEGETABLE
SEEDS FOR THE HOME GARDEN by
A. Navarro, Ph.D.
It is generally recommended that gardeners use good fresh
seeds when planting time comes around. Buying fresh seeds from
reputable dealers eliminates the problems arising from using bad
or non-fertile seeds. However, there are instances when a
gardener gets hold of a particularly good seed variety, usually a
native variety not easily available and not carried by commercial
seed dealers. This leaves him no choice but to save seeds from
his present crop. Some gardeners also desire to cut the expense of
buying new seeds. It is not a sound practice, but it can be done.
For those gardeners who are thinking of producing their
own seeds or want to save seeds from their present crop, the
following are some suggested practices.
LEARN ABOUT THE CROPS YOU ARE GROWING
It pays to know about the seeds used to start your crops.
Find out if the seeds you used were hybrids. Consult seed
catalogs, if available. Seeds saved from hybrid crops generally do
not produce as well as the first crop. Onion, sweet corn, cabbage,
tomato, and cucumber seeds are usually hybrids.
SELECT HEALTHY PLANTS
Seeds should be taken only from the most vigorous growing
plants in your garden. Plants selected for seeds must be free of
any damage from insects or diseases. Just like people, plants pass
on their characteristics to their offspring. Seeds from healthy
plants usually grow into another healthy plant.
USE ONLY MATURE FRUITS OR PODS FOR SEEDS
Fruits or pods to be used as sources of seeds should be
taken from the plants when they are fully mature. Seeds from fully
mature fruits germinate better and keep longer. Immature seeds
from young fruits do not germinate. Again, when harvesting fruits
for seed, pick only the best looking fruits or pods.
CLEAN AND DRY THE SEEDS
Seeds of vegetable crops vary in size and appearance. Some
come out of the fruits already clean and dry, while seeds from
crops such as tomatoes and melons are wet and coated with a
gelatinous material. Here are some recommended methods for
Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Melons: Open the fruits and
place seeds in ajar. Add a little water to make a soupy mixture.
Leave the jar open at room temperature and allow the mixture to
ferment for 2-3 days. During fermentation, stir occasionally to
separate pulp from the seeds. After 2-3 days seeds should settle
to the bottom of the jar and the pulp can be poured off. Wash
the seeds and lay them on an absorbent paper; an old newspaper
will do. Put them in the sunlight to dry for 2 days.
Squash, Eggplants and Pepper: Open the fruits. Remove
the seeds and wash. Dry them like the tomatoes.
Beans, Okra, Onions, Mustard, and Radish: Allow the
pods to dry on the plant but pick them before the pods shatter
and seeds fall to the ground. Complete the drying process by
laying them out under the sun until the pods are hard and dry.
The seeds are easily taken from the dry pods.
TREAT SEEDS WITH CHEMICALS
Disease organisms may be carried outside and inside the
seeds. They do their damage when the seeds are planted.
Treating seeds with chemicals minimizes problems arising from
seedborn diseases as well as diseases that attack newly planted
seeds. Ceresan and Arasan are usually recommended, although
other fungicides can be used.
There are a number of ways of treating seeds with
chemicals. The simplified way is to mix the chemicals with the
seeds so the chemicals cover most surfaces of the seeds. One
tablespoonful per pound of seeds is sufficient. Simply place the
seeds in ajar or bag and add the chemicals. Close the container
and shake. Keep shaking until seeds are covered with the
chemicals. Now they are ready to be stored.
1) All seed treatment materials are poisonous and highly
toxic. Carefully mark containers holding treated seeds.
Do not use the seeds for feed or food even after they
have been stored for months or years.
2) Avoid inhaling dusts, fumes or vapors when treating.
3) Do treatment in well-ventilated place.
4) When treating seeds, use dust mask or handkerchief
over your nose and mouth. Avoid getting any chemical
material on your skin. Wash hands afterwards and dry
PRE-STORAGE SEED TEST
There is no point in storing or planting seeds that are not
viable or will not germinate. In order to be sure that the seeds to
be stored or planted are viable, it is important that a germination
test be done before storage or planting. Testing viability of seeds
can be done by placing a number of seeds in ajar or dish with
moist paper towel and allow to germinate. If 80% or more of the
seeds germinate, the seeds are good and suitable for either
planting or storage.
STORE SEEDS PROPERLY
Keeping seeds dry during storage is most important. Moisture
causes seeds to rot. See to it that moisture from the air or any
other sources does not get into the seeds. A simple, inexpensive
but efficient storage container can be made out of a canning
jar with an airtight lid. Get a clean jar. Make sure it is dry. As a
precaution against moisture, put a layer of powdered charcoal
(dessicant) on the bottom of the jar. One-half inch thickness is
sufficient. If silica gel or calcium chloride is available, these
should be substituted for the charcoal. Place the seeds in an
envelope so they do not get in contact with the charcoal; place
ajar and cover tightly. Periodically check the dessicant: if it feels
moist, change it with fresh material. The storage jar should be
in the coolest place in the house, preferably in a frost-free
refrigerator. Low temperature prolongs the life of the seeds. With
this method of storage, seeds can be kept without significant
MAXIMUM STORAGE PERIOD FOR SEEDS KEPT UNDER
SEEDS PERIOD SEEDS PERIOD
Beans ............... 1 year Eggplant ........... 2 years
Broccoli ............ 2 years Canaloupe .......... 2 years
Cabbage ........... 2 years Okra ............. 8 months
Cauliflower ......... 2 years Onion ............ 8 months
Celery ............. 2 years Pepper .............. 1 year
Chinese Cabbage .... 2 years Pumpkin .... 1 year
Corn ............. 8 months Radish ............. 2 years
Cucumber .......... 2 years Tomato ............. 1 year
Watermelon ....... 2 years
--- BottlE ctoer
/- See p/-ets
,irre me s
Seed Storage Jar
PRE-PLANT SEED TEST
Even after all these precautions have been taken, it is
advisable for the home gardener to run another test for seed
viability before planting. Follow the same procedure as outlined
under pre-storage seed test.
SEED COMPANIES AND DISTRIBUTORS
Box 430, Christiansted
St. Croix, USVI 00820
General Port Terminal
Box 649, Christiansted
St. Croix, USVI 00820
Bryan*s Plants& Garden
3 Dorothea, Charlotte Amalie
St. Thomas, USVI 00801
Asgrow International Corp.
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49001
Keystone International Seed
P.O. Box 1438
Hollister, California 95023
National Sales Manager
Peto Seed Co., Inc.
Staicoy, Calif. 93003
Otis S. Twilley Seed Co.
Trevose, Pa. 19047
Northrup, King & Co.
1500 Jackson St., N.E.
Minneapolis, Minn. 55413
Reuter Seed Co., Inc. New
Orleans, La. 70179
Mr. Richard Sakuoka
Dept. of Horticulture
Plant Science Bldg.
3190 Maile Way
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822
T. Sakata & Co.
C.P.O. Box Yokohama No.
Yokohama, Japan 220-91
Takii & Co., Ltd.
Kyoto, 600-91, Japan
Products and suppliers mentioned by name in this publication are used as examples and in no way imply endorsement or recommendation of these products or suppers
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914 (as amended), in cooperation with the U S Department ofAgriculture, D S Padda, Director,
College of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service The College of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action organization,
providing educational services in the field of agriculture, home economics, rural development, 4-H youth development and related subjects to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex or