Answer: You can easily save vegetable seeds from your garden produce to plant next year. Saving vegetable seeds involves selecting suitable plants and harvesting seeds at the right time to then store them properly during the winter.
We recommend you save your vegetable seeds for next year in a jar.
How do you know if vegetable seeds are still good?
It can be hard to see if a vegetable seed is still good to be sown, but there are a couple of tests that can be used to see if the seeds still will germinate or not.
The water test in 3 easy steps
One method to start checking the viability of your seeds is by doing the water test in 3 easy steps.
1. Start to take your seeds in a container of water and let them sit there for 15 minutes.
2. If the seeds sink, they will still be viable. If the seeds float, they will often not sprout.
3. Take the viable seeds and plant them in the soil in your garden.
This is in my opinion, not the best test to do, but it’s fast and easy to see if your seeds are viable or not.
The germination test
Start taking 10-15 of your seeds and place them on top of a damp paper towel in a row. Then you have to fold over the paper towel and afterward place it in a plastic bag (we recommend a zip-loc) and seal it. By sealing the paper towel you help to keep it moist and protected.
Take your sealed plastic bag and place it in a warm location in your house. It could be on top of your refrigerator or even on a high self.
Try to have a look once a day at the paper towel and see if it still has the right moisture and if the seeds have begun to germinate. If it needs more water, try carefully mist the towel and add some water, but you have to be careful and don’t add too much water.
It’s important that the warm location you choose in your house isn’t directly into the sunlight, because this can overheat your seeds and if they get overheated you have to start all over again.
It usually takes several days and up to a couple of weeks before your seeds will begin to germinate. However, it all depending on the chosen seed type.
A great rule to use is to wait roughly 10 days to give the best chances of your seeds to germinate, but if you want a more concrete answer, you need to investigate the germination time of your chosen seeds before you start doing the germination test.
When the time has passed, you have to check how many of your seeds have germinated. If less than 5 seeds have sprouted in the paper towel, it will often be a sign that you can’t expect to get success with these chosen seeds.
However, if you see more than 5 seeds sprouted, you can definitely use the seeds and you know they will still be powerful and strong plants.
You might think like a lot of people that it can be a great idea to wait to do this germination test until it’s around the time of planting the seeds that will sprout successfully, which makes a lot of sense.
Try to have in mind that every seed is different and you can expect to see your results vary depending on the seeds chosen.
This method will give you more precise results in my opinion compare to the water test, but it’s more difficult and take a little longer to complete.
Different types of pollination
When we talk vegetable seeds you will often see these 4 types of pollinated plants.
1. Self-pollinated plants
Beans, peppers, and tomatoes are all great choices for vegetable seed saving. These vegetables have all flowers that are self-pollinating and seeds that require little or no treatment to be stored.
However, you will see that it will be harder to save seeds from beets or carrots because these plants need two growing seasons to set seeds to compare to beans, peppers, and tomatoes which will set seeds from the first season.
2. Cross-pollinated plants
Vines and corn are with separate male and female flowers, and can therefore be cross-pollinated. Cross-pollination may happen because it’s difficult to keep the seed strain pure.
However, even popcorn will be able to pollinate a stand of sweet corn on a windy day from a nearby garden. The flavor of the sweet corn will be affected and you can expect that the corn crop from these seeds will be neither great popcorn nor great sweet corn.
Although cross-pollination usually does not affect the quality of the current crop, the seeds from a cross-pollination will often result in inferior flavor and other errors.
3. Open-pollinated plants
It may be a great idea to choose open-pollinated seeds when you want to save the seeds for next year.
The reason for this is that if open-pollinated varieties either self-pollinate or cross-pollinate with the same variety of other plants, they will be able to set seeds that will grow into plants, that will be very similar to the original parent plant.
These plants will be almost like the original plant and bear the same vegetables and set new seeds which again will produce more plants that are similar.
When you have planted an open-pollinated crop, the best way to save the seeds is by selecting the strongest plants with the best-tasting vegetables or fruit as parents for the next year’s crop. Try to not save the seeds from the weakest plants to get the best and strongest plants going forward.
4. Hybrid plants
On hybrid plants, the focus is not on pollination. A hybrid vegetable plant is the product of a cross between different varieties. The focus is to combine traits of the parent plants.
A combination of a hybrid seed can be really great by producing plants that are disease resistant and enormously strong and powerful with great productivity. You can expect that hybrid seeds are often more expensive than normal vegetable seeds because they cost more to produce.
It’s important to know that the plants grown from a hybrid seed will not be identical to the hybrid parents. The new plants will be a completely new combination of the great and bad traits of the plants from the original cross.
However, the bad thing with hybrid seeds is that it is impossible to predict how the seedling plant will perform or what qualities the vegetables will have.
How long can you store vegetable seeds?
Most of the vegetable seeds can be stored for about two to three years before you can expect the seeds not to be viable anymore.
However, some vegetable seeds will deteriorate already within’ a year such as onions.
Which some seeds can sometimes successfully sprout after five years, meaning it depends a lot of the chosen vegetables seeds for how long they can be stored.
You can also expect some variability because no seeds are alike and whether the seed has been fully ripe or stored dry can also have an impact on how long it can be stored.
What is the best way to store vegetable seeds long-term?
If you have found a rare seed that you want to store for a longer period, you are only a few steps away to protect the seed’s viability long-term. Most of us have it in our home, a freezer.
You might think “can you freeze seeds to make them last longer?” – Yes, you can and the frost will not kill the seeds if you’re doing it correctly.
Some seeds may be killed when they get frozen, but other seeds will definitely survive.
The key to successfully freezing your seeds for a longer period is to dry them thoroughly before they being frozen. The seeds have to be dried because when the freezing process will be started if the seeds are moist, the seeds will find it easier to crack or split.
You should therefore place the dried seeds in an airtight plastic bag or container, which can prevent the seeds from absorbing humidity or get damaged due to moisture.
If you store your seeds in your freezer, you will provide the seeds a more consistent temperature compare to store the seeds in a refrigerator, as a refrigerator will be used more frequently and therefore be opened and closed several times.
If you choose to store your seeds in your refrigerator, i will therefore recommend you to try to place the seeds near the back of the fridge.
How long will vegetable seeds last in the freezer?
If the vegetable seeds are in good condition and stored properly in your freezer, you can expect the seeds to be stored from 1-5 years depending on the plant.
It’s difficult to give a 100 % correct answer here because it all depends on the chosen seeds and how it has been stored in the freezer. However, a good rule of thumb is to go for the above.
We hope you get your questions answered regarding how to store your vegetable seeds in the best way by reading the article.