Learn to be more self sufficient--save your own garden seeds

Last Updated: 
August 4, 2008

CORVALLIS - The upcoming Y2K or "millennium bug" has people thinking about self sufficiency. One of the best ways to become self sufficient is to grow your own food and save your own seeds.

The Oregon State University Extension Service offers a publication on collecting, storing and testing seeds for germination at no charge, entitled "Collecting and Storing Seeds from Your Garden." You can download this publication off the web right away or send for it by mail from OSU by following the instructions below.

Although seed saving is not always feasible with all types of vegetables, collecting your own seed can be an exercise in self-sufficiency and a lesson in plant biology.

Do not save seed from hybrid varieties if you want plants like the parents. Seeds from hybrid varieties produce a mix of offspring, many of which may be inferior to the parent. Seed from vine crops is often quite variable also - squashes, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins often cross-pollinate with other genetically compatible varieties. Unless pollination has been strictly controlled, strange hybrids often result in the next generation.

Among the vegetable seeds most easily saved are non-hybrid tomato, pepper, bean and pea seeds. Collect seeds from the fully mature, ripe fruit of these plants.

To save tomato seeds, squeeze the seeds from a fully ripe fruit onto a paper towel or piece of screen. Leave the seeds at room temperature until they are thoroughly dry.

Pepper seeds can be collected by selecting a mature pepper, preferably one turning red, and allow it to turn completely red before extracting the seed. Pepper seeds can be dried as described above for tomato seeds.

To collect bean, pea and other legume seeds, leave the pods on the plant until they are "rattle dry." Keep an eye on the pods, as some varieties split and scatter the seeds when dry. Pick the dried pods and place them in a well-ventilated area at room temperature. When the pods are completely dry, remove the seeds.

To store seeds, put each type in a labeled and dated envelope. Store the seed packets in a jar. Moisture may cause the seeds to deteriorate more quickly. To keep the seeds dry, fill a small cloth bag with about one-half cup dried powdered milk. Place the dry milk packet inside the jar beneath the seed packets. Close the jar tightly and refrigerate until planting time.

For more information on Collecting and Storing Seeds from Your Garden, FS 220, visit our on-line catalog. Our publications and video catalog at: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ shows which publications are available on the Web and which can be ordered as printed publications.

If you have other concerns about Y2K, download or pick up other OSU Extension publications, including:

  • Coping with Power Failures is a 4-page publication to help you prepare for short or long-term power failures. It contains information about fireplaces, wood and pellet stoves, vented fireplaces and inserts, and vented heaters. It includes cautions about unvented heaters.
  • Preparing Your Family for Emergencies advises Oregonians how to be prepared for floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Adapted from guidelines provided by the American Red Cross and the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, the publication includes preparations families may want to take before the new millennium.
Author: Carol Savonen