What to Do in the Garden – September: Seed Saving Simplified

Now that we’re well into the harvest side of the gardening season, this is a good time to plan some seed saving strategy.

Watch for the oldest, most robust vegetable sprouts or flower blooms. Because they will have had the most time for their seeds to mature “on the vine” so to speak, they will be the best candidates for seed saving. Allow the vegetable or flower to stay on the plant until past mature, then harvest for seeds; it gives the seeds inside the best nurturing of the season, and will reward you with strong, healthy seeds.

The following seeds are especially easy to save; from the vegetable garden are beans, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and peas. Easy to save flower seeds are zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums, poppies, sunflowers, snapdragons, and morning glories. It is necessary for most flower seeds, especially zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers, to fully mature while on the stem, so be sure they are good and dried before harvesting.

Seeds that are more challenging to save are typically the biennial kind – these are the plants that grow the first year, then produce seeds in the second year. Their seeds can certainly be saved; you just have to wait for year two. These plants include, but are not limited to – carrots, beets, cabbages, leeks, onions, garlic, parsnips and turnips. For flowers: angelica, fox glove, black-eyed Susan, money plant, hollyhocks, and Canterbury bells.

Did you know that seeds really do not have an expiration date? Seeds stored in ideal conditions can sprout for years to come! Over time, viability will decrease, so you may need many seeds to get some that sprout the older they get. This is good news for heirloom or hard to find seeds.

So, to save seeds, according to Utah State University Yard and Garden Extension:

“~Harvest seeds from the fruit/flower when fully mature, but not rotten or moldy.

~Separate seeds from the surrounding tissue and allow them to air dry on waxed paper or a wax coated paper plate for several days. Keep out of direct sunlight but place them in a well ventilated area with low humidity.”

Once dry, they can be sanitized. This is optional, but an important step if sharing with other gardeners (all seeds shared with the Steele Memorial Seed Lending Library are sanitized, so you can donate without this step): in a solution of 1 C water, 3 oz. hydrogen peroxide, and 1 oz. vinegar, soak seeds for 5-15 minutes. Rinse in a sieve and allow to dry dry dry on waxed paper. Better to overestimate rather than underestimate here.

Lifted right from the Old Farmer’s Almanac is this advice for saving tomato and cucumber seeds:

“Because tomatoes and cucumbers have seeds that are coated with a gel, the first step is to remove it by fermentation. Follow these steps:

  1. Squeeze or spoon the seed mass into a waterproof container (glass, jar, plastic cup, or deli container).
  2. Add enough water to equal the volume of the seed mass, and put the container in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.
  3. Stir the contents at least once a day.
  4. In a couple of days, the viable seeds will sink to the bottom and bad seeds and debris and white mold will float to the surface.
  5. Wait five days for all the good seeds to drop, then rinse away the gunk at the top.
  6. Wash the seeds in several changes of water, and lay them out in a single layer on a glass or plastic plate or screen.
  7. Put the plate in a warm place until the seeds are fully dry, which can take several weeks.”

Click here for more valuable seed saving info:

Once you have your seeds saved, they can be stored several ways. Paper envelopes come to mind immediately, but, they may be at risk for moisture in the atmosphere over time, which shortens the seeds’ viability. Remember to store in a cool, dry place. An old pill bottle is a very good choice or, a plastic bag, but the seeds must be thoroughly dry or they may mold.

The best seeds for saving are open pollinated and heirloom seeds. Both of these are freely pollinated by bees, birds, and other helpers. So, the seeds from these plants are considered easy to grow.

For more tips on seed saving, check out books from our holdings, or try these sites:


And happy seed saving!

Other Things to Do This Month:

~ Divide perennial flowers now if needed.
~ Turn over your compost pile.
~ Continue to remove weeds.
~ Remove and destroy iris foliage to eliminate the eggs of the iris borer.
~ Begin planting spring bulbs.
~ Pot up some parsley, chives, oregano, or mints to use indoors. You can also freeze or dry herbs for winter use.
~ Mulch your asparagus and strawberries.
~ Take pictures of your gardens. Make notes for next year’s gardens now. What worked, what didn’t, what to add, remove, or move.
~ Lay out thick layers of cardboard or newspaper over areas that will become new beds in the spring. These will kill grasses and/or weeds as they break down making spring efforts easier.
Ideas from https://upstategardenersjournal.com

Caroline Poppendeck, Librarian
Steele Memorial Library