It is very easy to collect and save tomato seeds. Because open-pollinated and heirloom seeds are generally self-pollinating when you collect and save their seed, you can be reasonably sure the plants you grow will be true to type.
So how do you collect and save tomato seeds?
Simple Tomato Seed Prep And Storage
To collect and save tomato seeds, begin by doing the following:
- Choose undamaged tomatoes that are fully ripe and of the size and shape ideal to which you aspire as a gardener. In other words, only save tomato seeds from your best tomatoes.
- Cut the tomatoes into wedges and squeeze the seeds and gel into a water container at room temperature.
- Allow them to soak for only one or two days. Soaking or fermenting for longer periods has a negative effect.
- Pour the water through a strainer and rinse the seeds to remove the gel.
- While soaking the seeds and removing the gel is not entirely necessary, it does speed germination. Additionally, clean seeds are less likely to develop bacterial or fungal problems in storage or when planted.
- Spread the seeds onto screening, a paper plate, or waxed paper.
- Set them aside in an area that is out of direct sunlight, airy, and consistently warm.
- Allow them to dry thoroughly before packaging them for storage.
5 Tips To Successfully Gather And Store Tomato Seeds
Here are the steps to gather and store tomato seeds successfully:
- Store your tomato seeds in paper envelopes to help prevent fungal growth problems.
- Additionally, you can easily label each envelope with the date of packaging and the type of seed contained therein.
- Choosing tomatoes free from pests or weather damage helps ensure that the seed will not transmit disease to the offspring.
- It’s best to gather your tomatoes to be used for seed from plants that are set apart from others. Doing so helps prevent cross-pollination and ensures that the plants that grow from your seed are actually the type you want.
- Take care not to use double fruits as sources for seed. This type of fruit is the result of blooms that have a rather unusual flower structure that is conducive to cross-pollination.
- To gather only the very best seeds, focus on those in the center of the tomatoes you choose. The seeds in the center are usually larger.
Other Tomato Seed Saving Techniques
Aside from the methods mentioned above, you can do the following techniques to save tomato seeds.
No Soak Method
When you soak and rinse your tomato seeds before storing them in envelopes in a cool, dry place, you can expect your seeds to be viable for three or four years.
However, if you just plan to collect enough seed from planting in the next season, you may wish to skip the soaking and rinsing parts of the preparation.
When you do this, the drying time may be longer, and you may have fewer viable seeds because there are chemicals in the gel that inhibit sprouting.
Seed Mat Method
If you just want to save a few seeds, you can simply cut open a ripe, perfect tomato and pick out a few fat seeds with tweezers, a knife tip, or something similar. Transfer these onto a paper towel or a coffee filter. The seeds with gel should stick to the paper.
Set the whole thing aside to dry for a few days. Store the seed-coated paper loosely in a paper envelope in a cool, dry place.
When planting time comes, you can cut the paper into sections and plant the sections rather than planting individual seeds.
TIP: You can combine the no-soak and seed-mat methods by squeezing all the seeds from your chosen tomato onto paper toweling.
Spread the gel and seeds and set the whole thing aside to dry for a couple of weeks.
Once it’s dry, you can fold the paper towel, put it in a labeled envelope and store it in a cool, dry place until spring. Next, cut the paper towel into sections and plant the sections.
The Natural Method
At the end of the tomato growing season, decide where to plant tomatoes next year. It shouldn’t be in the same space because growing tomatoes in the same patch year after year is an open invitation to the tomato mosaic virus.
Clear the area you plan to use and bury a few cut tomatoes there. To prevent them from sprouting immediately, bury them about four inches deep.
Put a couple of inches of soil over them, then top it off with a couple of inches of organic mulch. Four-inch depth of planting will also ensure that quite a few of the seeds will survive the winter.
Be sure to mark the places where you bury cut tomatoes. Then, early in the springtime, you can take the mulch away and loosen the earth by hand.
Place a row cover over the area to help the seeds stay warm. You should see seedlings within a couple of weeks.