We’re coming towards the end of vegetable gardening season here and I’ve started thinking about my “garden plan” for next year. What I plant, often depends on what grew best during the previous gardening years. To help with planning your vegetable garden, please see my post “How to Plan a Vegetable Garden“.
When a plant grows well in your garden, it tends to produce seed that is adapted to your growing conditions. When we replant the seeds harvested from these plants, they often grow better than the seeds from a seed package.
How do we save seeds from our various garden goodies?
Why should we consider saving our own seeds, when we could easily buy new seed stock every year?
In this post, I will go over the reasons for saving your own garden seeds (and there are many). I will also discuss the best way to store your seeds, in order to ensure long-term seed viability.
In addition, I will walk you through the simplicity of saving your own seeds, starting with peppers, either hot or sweet.
This post is the start of my Seed Saving Series. As we begin to put our gardens to bed for the winter, this series will teach you how to save seeds from your favourite crops for future planting.
Let’s begin this series with Peppers.
Peppers are members of the Solanaceae family and genus Capsicum. Solanaceous vegetables include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, ground cherry, tomatillos and peppers. Capsicum includes all the peppers, both hot and sweet.
Peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to save seeds from. By starting our seed saving series with this vegetable, you will see how easy it is to save pepper seeds for replanting in future. This will give you an element of confidence to proceed with some of the more difficult to save vegetable seeds, like tomatoes and eggplant.
Why should we save our own seeds?
- By saving seeds from our vegetable gardens and replanting them again in future years, we end up producing seed that is adapted to our climate and conditions and better able to withstand pests, changing weather patterns and disease.
- Many heirloom seeds are no longer available for sale or are difficult to find, as seed companies swap out historical seeds, for more popular and easy to grow hybrid varieties
- Saving our seeds preserves our seed heritage and seed genetic diversity
- Seeds can be expensive and some more than others. For example, one tomato will produce hundreds of seeds, while a package of seeds may only contain ten seeds or less.
How to Save Pepper Seeds (either hot or sweet)
When selecting vegetables for seed saving, select the largest, healthiest and best tasting specimens. Choose ones that don’t have any evidence of disease or damage. Make sure they are uniform in their growth. If they are lopsided, choose a different one. You want to be sure that the seed you select is from the best sample. It may be hard to not eat the most perfect, shiniest specimen, but you will appreciate it when that specimen produces many more beautiful fruit in the following years.
Here’s What to Do:
- small paring knife
- plate or flat bowl
- rubber gloves (or 2 pairs)
- Depending on the heat index of your hot peppers, you will need to wear at least one or more pairs of rubber gloves to protect your hands. If you don’t wear gloves, the oils in your hot peppers will remain on your skin and cause your skin to burn for an extended period of time. Be sure to keep your hands away from your eyes. *Gloves are only necessary when processing hot peppers.
- Carefully slice down the side of your peppers, being careful not to cut into the seed cavity.
- Gently pull open the pepper, exposing the seeds and membranes.
- Use your fingers to scoop out the seeds into a plate or bowl. (Click image below for larger view.) [foogallery id=”4975″]
- Remove any membranes that may be attached to the seeds.
- Discard any black, brown or dark rimmed seeds. These seeds are not healthy and may contain disease. (Click image below for larger view.) [foogallery id=”4976″]
- Spread your pepper seeds out on a plate and leave them to dry, out of direct sunlight. Choose a space which is low in humidity, or moisture will remain in your seeds. (Click image below for larger view.) [foogallery id=”4977″]
- After two weeks, your peppers should be completely dry. Check their pliability. If fully dry, they will break in half when bent. If pliable, leave them for another week to continue drying.
- Store your seeds in an airtight glass jar or coin paper envelope.
I don’t recommend storing your seeds in a plastic bag or container. If your seeds contain any leftover moisture from the drying process, the humidity in the plastic bag will cause them to sweat and possibly rot.
Where to Store Seeds to Extend their Seed Viability
Store your seeds in a cool, dry area. A cool basement or storage room is a good location. A hot, humid location may cause the seeds to germinate or reduce their lifespan. A dry area will keep them in a dormant state for a longer period of time.
Some people store their seeds in the fridge or freezer. This location is fine, as long as your seeds are 100% dry. If there is any moisture left in the seeds, it may affect seed viability. If you choose this storage location, be sure to give your seeds time to acclimatize to room temperature before opening their packet or storage container.
If stored correctly, pepper seeds will remain viable for many years. If your seeds are old or haven’t been stored properly (i.e. sunny window, damp basement, etc.) and you’re unsure of whether or not they will germinate, check out my post – How to Complete a Seed Germination Test. There, I give you step-by-step directions showing you how to complete your own germination test. A video also shows you exactly what to do.
It is very satisfying to save seeds from your favourite vegetables, particularly when they’ve performed well in the garden. By saving your own seeds, you are guaranteeing the continuation of that variety. If that variety performed well in your garden and you chose to save seeds from it, you are raising the odds of it performing again in future.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I will be discussing tomato seed saving techniques.