In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
September, 2001
Regional Report

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Wait until peppers ripen fully to red and begin to wrinkle before harvesting for seed saving.

It's Seed Saving Time

It's almost fall and it's time to save seeds of my favorite plants for next year. Although I can buy many unusual varieties, I like to save my own seeds because after a few years the varieties I save adapt to the growing situation in my garden and seem to produce better.

Save Open Pollinated Varieties

Self pollinated plants such as tomatoes and peppers are prime candidates for home seed saving. Save only open pollinated varieties. There is no point in saving seed from hybrid varieties. Their seeds often will not come true, meaning the resulting plants don't exhibit all the same characteristics of their parents. For the most predictable results, I save seeds of reliable open pollinated varieties such as 'Brandywine' tomatoes or 'California Wonder' peppers.

Selecting Fruits

Earlier this season, I tagged the nicest fruits on the most robust plants of the varieties I wanted to save. Once mature I picked them. It's hard not to eat the best of the crop, but these will produce the best quality seeds and best plants next year.

Saving Peppers

Pepper seeds are simple to harvest and save. When the peppers ripen to the point where they begin to wrinkle, I cut them open and scrape out the seeds. I dry the seeds in a single layer of paper for a 1 to 2 weeks in a warm, airy location out of direct sun, and then pack them away.

Saving Tomatoes

Tomato seeds require an extra step when saving them. I let the tomato ripen a little longer than I would normally for eating. I harvest and then scoop out the seeds and put them in a dish of water to ferment. After several days the water turns scummy and smelly so I change the water, soak them again and finally rinse them clean and lay them out to dry. This fermenting process is necessary to prepare the seeds for storage and germination next year.

I dry them as I do with peppers. When totally dry, each variety goes into a labeled envelope and is placed in an airtight jar that's kept in the refrigerator. Some gardeners add a bit of powdered milk wrapped in paper towel or a silica packet for extra protection against excess moisture. Keep seeds dry, dark. and at a steady and cool temperature. The refrigerator works well if you have room. Next spring, I'll be ready to start the cycle all over again come planting time.


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