If you are tired of paying higher and higher prices for tomato transplants every spring, this is the year to start saving tomato seeds from your garden. And mid to late summer is the perfect time to start saving!
Saving seeds is not only a great way to stretch your gardening budget, it’s easy and simple to do. Even better, it allows you to select seeds from the best tomatoes from your harvest. And that can have a big impact on improving the heath and harvest totals from your plants in subsequent years!
By selecting seeds from your best tomatoes, you improve the quality of your seed stock. That means better germination. Stronger and healthier plants. And best of all, a bigger and more flavorful harvest.
Here is a look at which tomato seeds you can save, along with how to collect, dry and store them to plant again next year:
How To Save Tomato Seeds – Knowing Which Seeds You Can Save
When it comes to saving seeds from tomatoes, there are some varieties that work, and some that will not. And knowing the difference is critical to success.
The seeds of open-pollinated tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes) can be saved. Hybrid tomato varieties on the other hand can not be saved. And here is why:
Heirloom tomato seeds are pure. Meaning the seeds you save from an open pollinated plant will grow to be the exact same plant , producing the exact same fruit the following year.
Hybrid tomatoes, on the other hand, do not work in the same way. Hybrids are a cross of two or more tomato plants. They are bred to create a unique and new tomato plant and tomato.
Because of this, the seeds from a hybrid tomato will not replicate the hybrid when re-planted. Instead, they usually will revert back to one of the original tomato plants that were crossed to create it – and perhaps even a new mutation of it.
It often results in a plant that will not bear fruit, or creates a completely different tomato. And that, of course, is not a good thing when you want to grow the same great-tasting tomato from year to year.
How Do I Know What I Am Growing? – How To Save Tomato Seeds
So how do you know if your seeds are heirloom or hybrid? The easiest way of course is to check the seed packet. They will almost always tell you if the variety is a hybrid or not.
If that is not possible, you can always look up the variety on-line. Almost all seed companies list the particulars of each variety, including if it is an heirloom variety or not.
The “How To” Of Saving Tomato Seeds
The tomato seed-saving process is unique when compared to saving seeds from other vegetables. Tomato seeds have a gelatinous coating on their outer skin.
When this coating stays in tact, it makes it very difficult for the seed to germinate the following year. When a tomato plant grows uninterrupted in the wild, the fruit opens up and then falls to the ground.
In doing this, it eventually rots and decomposes. This process of rotting is actually helps prepare the seeds that fall for growing the following year. As the tomato decomposes, the gelatinous outer coat of the seed breaks down.
Once this layer is gone, it then allows for easy germination of the seed. This is exactly why tomatoes thrown in the compost pile produce so many volunteer seeds – and why they should be left out of piles.
As the compost breaks down, it breaks apart the outer layer. And the following year, hundreds of the seeds easily germinate in the pile, or wherever you use the compost. (See 5 Things You Should Never Put In A Compost Pile)
But when it comes to saving seeds, following nature’s lead is the way to go. And that means allowing the seeds to break down enough to have the protective coat removed. It might sound difficult to do, but the process is quite simple.
The Process – How To Save Tomato Seeds
When saving tomato seeds, begin by selecting a healthy, ripe tomato from your best plant. Whether saving seeds from a tomato, a pepper, or any vegetable, you’ll want to save seeds from the healthiest vegetable on the best-looking plant.
By selecting from the best stock, you are ensuring the best chance for good growth, health and success. It all comes down to good genetics. By selecting the best tomatoes, it strengthens the odds for the best traits to carry on.
Next, cut the tomato in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds into a clean mason jar. There is no need to add any water or a lid.
Place the jar in a warm, humid location that is out of the way of everyday traffic. The goal here is to let the tomato rot a few days. By placing it out of the way, you can also avoid the smell of a rotting tomato that might awaken the senses.
Decomposing The Outer Skin – How To Save Tomato Seeds
In a few days, the tomato will begin to start decomposing. Usually, within five days, the pulp will be start to display a white or green fuzzy mold. It can take a bit longer in some instances, but a little less than a week is usually a good rule of thumb.
Once the tomato pulp and seeds have mold covering most of the pulp, it is time to take action. Begin by pouring water into the jar and wash off the mold. Repeat the process a few times until the seeds are clean.
Once clean, fill the jar one more time with water. The good seeds will sink to the bottom, allowing you to skim off the pulp and bad seeds. Once you skim off any remaining pulp and floating seeds, pour the water out, and the seeds left are ready to dry and save.
To dry, place the seeds out on a paper towel or newspaper for a few days. It is very important to let seeds dry completely before storing, so make sure they are completely free of any moisture before storing.
Once dry, to store, put the seeds in a sealed plastic baggie, or mason jar with a covered lid. Store in a cool, dry and dark place. If you have room, the refrigerator makes an excellent storage location for seeds.
Once spring rolls around, you are all ready to start your seeds indoors and grow! (See : How To Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors)
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