How to Harvest Seeds From Your Garden

A row of seeds in 4 glass jars.

There are many benefits to saving seeds from your garden crops. Not only can you save money on next year’s crop, but you can create plant varieties that grow well in your environment. Reusing seeds is fortunately an easy process that can be replicated each year for better results. Follow these simple guidelines to start saving seeds for years to come.

Growing Healthy Seeds

A basket full of freshly picked vegetables.

You want to harvest seeds from only the healthiest, most robust plants in your garden. This starts by selecting good plants that germinate at a high percentage, have vigorous seedlings, and reach full maturity. Once you've targeted the right candidates, you will need to wait until the appropriate time to gather the seeds.

Collecting Seeds

The best time to harvest seeds depends on the plant variety. For many vegetables, such as squash, tomatoes, and melons, they should be picked when ripe. Beans and peas, on the other hand, should be left alone until they are fully dry and cracking. Remember to consult the specific type of plant to ensure you are harvesting at the optimal time.

Drying Seeds

A pile of fresh green beans.

Beans, okra, basil, peppers, and certain onions are all considered dry seeds. Cleaning dry seeds should be done after the plant has completely dried out. If rain is an issue, you can harvest the husks and pods and place them in a dry and moisture-free area to continue the drying process.

You can start cleaning the seeds once the husk or pod easily crumbles in your hand. Remove the larger chunks and place the rest of the mixture in a large bowl. Shaking the bowl will cause the heavy chunks to rise to the top. To remove only the seeds, use a screen or mesh with holes just large enough to allow the seeds to pass. Repeat this process until only the seeds remain.

Cleaning Wet Seeds

Wet seeds include eggplants, many squash varieties, and tomatoes. The process of cleaning wet seeds is a lot easier than their dry counterparts. You want to make sure the vegetable is completely ripe before harvesting seeds. Once they are fully mature, remove the vegetable from the stalk and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Fill a large bowl with water and mix the seeds and pulp inside. Use your fingers to separate the pulp. The good seeds will naturally sink while dead ones will rise with the pulp.

After you have successfully removed the wet seeds, they need to dry out before going into storage. Drain excess water with a strainer and pat the seeds dry with a paper towel. Spread out the seeds on a plate and store in a cool and dry environment for a few days.

Storing Seeds

Seeds in paper envelopes.

You want to make sure each seed grouping is properly labelled to avoid confusion down the road. Envelopes are a good way to store seeds as they can be easily labelled. Glass jars are great for larger groupings. Just remember to label the seeds with the kind and variety, where you purchased the original seed, and when they were harvested.

It’s best to store seeds in a dry and cool place. Avoid environments that contain moisture as this can encourage the seeds to sprout or develop mildew. Certain seeds, such as potatoes and onions, can be stored in open containers.

Seed Longevity

Seeds can last anywhere from two to 10 years, depending on the type of seed and storage conditions. You can ensure the seeds are still good for planting by performing a germination test. If the seeds successfully germinate, then they are ready for another season of growing.


Avoid using hybrid seeds for next year’s crop as this might yield an entirely different type next season. Instead, stick with standard seeds or hybrids you know will yield consistent results. Some plants are biennial, which means they don’t produce seeds until year two.