Saving Seeds: A Quick Primer

Photography By Kate Settle | March 01, 2015
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Greta's organic gardens

You only want to save seeds from the most desirable plants, so identify the most robust, disease-free, high-quality plants during the growing season.

Your plants will be either self-pollinating (having both male and female parts) or cross-pollinating (requiring pollen from other plants of the same species, transferred either by wind or insects). If you are using plants that are cross-pollinated, you must isolate them from other varieties of the same species — either by keeping varieties well apart, or by raising only one variety, avoiding the problem altogether.

When plants have matured, it’s time to process the seeds.


With dry seeds (such as peas or beans), leave them on the plant until the seedpod begins to dry and turn brown. Then, harvest the pods and put them in a paper bag labelled with the seed type, seed source, and the time of harvest.

With plants that produce many flowers (such as lettuce), the flower stalks should be harvested before full maturity. Cut each stalk and put into a paper bag and place the open bag in a warm and dry area until the pods are completely dry.


With wet seeds (from such fleshy fruits as tomatoes, melons and cucumbers), cut the fruit open, remove the seeds, and place them into container of water. Keep at room temperature for several days. Unviable seeds will float to the surface; strong seeds sink to the bottom. Discard the water and surface seeds and spread the viable seeds on paper towels to dry, out of direct sun. Once dry, place them in envelopes, or an airtight container and store in a cool, dry location. (Adapted from material from the University of Maine Extension Program)


Seed-saving procedures vary greatly from one variety to another. There are many sources of information online, in books, and through lectures given by experienced seed savers. Seedy Saturday events that are held across Canada and bring together enthusiasts for seed exchanges and sales, tip-gathering and technical information are one of the best sources of information.

Seedy Saturday
Greta Kryger will be at Seedy Saturday on Saturday, March 7 at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre at Britannia Beach, 102 Greenview Avenue in Ottawa. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She and other attendees will be happy to answer questions.

For online information, Kryger recommends that beginners go to the Seeds of Diversity Canada website at

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