With the end of the tomato season here it’s time to think about saving seed for next years crop. But why save seeds? Isn’t it easier to just buy new seed each year?
Well there’s many reasons to save your own seed which I’ll go in more depth on in the future but you can develop varieties which are adapted to your growing conditions (climate, soil etc), select for any traits you like, preserve unique heritage varieties which may have been passed down through generations for centuries, start your own family variety, maintain genetic diversity and it’s cheaper too!
If you have heritage seeds you can protect them from cross pollinating and make sure they ‘breed true’. If you bought hybrid seeds (often labeled F1) seed saved from this won’t breed true, but if you save tomato seed it will grow a tomato plant, albeit slightly different from the parent, and you might just like it even more.
I started with three varieties of tomatoes that I love with varying characteristics:
- Black Opal – purple cherry tomato, amazing flavour.
- Green Zebra – striking appearance, good flavour and texture.
- Gardeners Delight – a classic, reliable and heavy cropping red variety.
By letting them pollinate each other and simply saving seed from the best plants I’ll get the strength from the varied genetics and have fun with the unexpected surprises – possibly a black beefsteak tomato, or maybe a striped cherry tomato! I plan to add new varieties into the greenhouse every few years alongside them to ensure there is a fresh source of varied genes and that the seeds will continue to produce strong, healthy plants.
You can just get stuck in with any tomato seeds you have, or you can source heritage varieties you want to grow on and save seed from. In the UK you can go to The Reel Seed Catalogue, and in the US you can go to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
Saving tomato seeds is a really easy process, it just requires a little knowledge and a few steps.
NB: The tomatos shown below are the Green Zebra variety – as in the anme they remain green when fully ripe. Always save seed from fully ripe fruit.
Select the best fully ripe fruit, from a strong, healthy plant. Pick one that has the characteristics that you want to grow next year, e.g. fruit of a certain colouration, size, early or late crop, or a particularly heavy yielding plant.
Scoop the seeds out and place them in a mug or jar. Fill the container half full of water and cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm, dark place for three days.
A film of mould should form on the surface – this is good! The mould is breaking down the covering around the seed which prevents it from germinating.
Discard the mould on the surface and add some more water to the mug.
The seeds will sink to the bottom and you then pour off most of the water and with it the gunk.
Repeat this process until you are left with clean water and seeds at the bottom.
You can then dry the seeds on newspaper or kitchen towel and leave them to totally dry. I like to leave them on greaseproof paper in the airing cupboard for several weeks.
Once they are totally dry you can store them for next year. Seeds store best in airtight containers kept in the dark and cold. Be sure to label your seeds with the variety and the year you saved them.
Tomato seeds keep especially well and will germinate for up to 5 years, but when it’s this easy why not save some every year! By doing so you can speed up selection of the characteristics you want.
You can save all kinds of vegetable seeds so why not start today with your tomatoes?
If you need seed packets to store your tomato seeds in then take a look at my origami seed packet tutorial.