Learning how to save tomato seeds is not only the best way to have a sustainable garden, but saving tomato seeds will save you a lot of money!
As our gardens wind down for the season, it’s time to start harvesting and saving your heirloom tomato seeds! Today, I want to show you how you can save your tomato seeds for next years planting with 2 different methods, both of which are very simple, the wet method and the dry method.
What Type of Tomato Seeds Can Be Saved?
Not all saved seeds will produce the same results.
Most seeds fall into two categories: hybrid and heirloom seeds.
Hybrids, also referred to as F1, are seeds that are created from two different varieties of the same plant. These seeds are created to in order to obtain the best qualities of both plants i.e. insect and disease resistance, better yields, etc. All of this might sound like a great idea, but when seed-saving, hybrid seeds will deliver very inconsistent results. In other words, chances are that you won’t get the same fruit/vegetable from one year to the next.
Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been grown, saved and passed down for over 100 years, some heirlooms are even older! Heirlooms hold great value within families and in seed-saving communities!
If you want to be self-sufficient and consistent with your food production, my advice is to save only heirloom seeds. They are the best for seed-saving tomatoes!
How to Save Tomato Seeds – The Wet Method
For the first method of saving heirloom tomato seeds, which is called the “Wet Method”, you’ll need:
- A small pot filled with clean potting soil
- Not-so-fresh tomatoes, not going bad but slightly squishy
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Plastic wrap
Here’s my pot that I filled with clean potting soil. Whatever you use, make sure it’s not too shallow, the roots will need some room to grow.
Simply slice your tomatoes in 1/4-1/2″ or so slices, perfection is not required.
Place the slices on the potting soil like so. Do not water them or cover them with soil!
Don’t worry, the tomato seeds will know what to do!
Cover your pot with plastic wrap.
Place the pot in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to start your seedlings inside! I just put my heirloom tomato seeds in a second refrigerator and covered them with paper bags.
If you have a really cold spot in your basement or garage, that could work but it needs to be cold enough (below 50 degrees) for the seeds to stay dormant.
When it’s seed starting time, bring your pot full of tomato seeds out and place it in a warm, sunny window or wherever you start your seeds. Using grow lights is the best way to get tomato seeds to germinate.
You’ll begin to see a LOT of little seedlings coming up!
You can choose the best and strongest ones and pull out the rest. As the seedlings grow, it may become necessary to transplant them into a larger pot before they’re ready to go outside.
How easy is that??!!
Saving Seeds – The Dry Method
Now for the “Dry Method” you’ll need:
- Not-so-fresh tomato
- Small bowl
- Paper towel or napkin
First, quarter your tomato.
Next, with your thumbs, gently scoop out the tomato seeds directly into your bowl.
Put a little water (enough to cover the seeds) in your bowl and let it sit for 3-4 days to ferment. You’ll know it’s ready when it looks really scummy.
This fermentation process helps to dissolve the gel sac around the tomato seeds, which inhibits germination.
Ready! It took about 4 days for me.
Pour your tomato seeds into a strainer and rinse all the scum off, you may want to use your fingers to move the seeds around so they’ll be clean.
Next, put your seeds on a paper towel (placed on a plate of some kind) and let them dry.
You might be wondering how long it takes for the seeds to dry before planting! I set mine outside on a really hot day, the drying process didn’t take long at all! Just make sure they’re good and dry so that mold won’t grow on your heirloom tomato seeds.
Once they’re dry, your heirloom tomato seeds might be stuck to the paper towel. Don’t panic, gently scrape them off with your fingernail. If a little bit of paper towel fuzz is still on the seed, it’s ok. That’s preferred over damaging the seed.
Store your heirloom tomato seeds in a seed envelope or other container in a dark, cool place until next year!!
This is what my heirloom tomato seeds looked like the following year! Once they have their second set of leaves or true leaves, I’ll separate them and transplant them into large containers.
Harvesting and saving tomato seeds only takes a little planning, but brings huge payoffs!