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Harvesting your own seeds

You can easily harvest seeds from your own plants and sow them in your vegetable garden next year. This page is all about how.

Personally, I don't do it very often because I have more than enough. Makes sense since I sell them 😉

But sometimes it's so easy, even I can't resist:
Zaden van pompoenen kun je makkelijk oogsten
Pumpkin seeds are easy to harvest
Collect seeds for yourself, for someone else, or for the winter birds.

Before you start, you need to know what's possible. Not all your plants have harvestable seeds.

F1 hybrids

Vegetables that have been cross-pollinated to breed a new variety are called hybrids. Growers do this to get juicier fruits or to make plants that are more resistant to certain diseases, for example.

If you see F1 on your seed bag, that means the seeds are hybrids.

Our current Black Forest F1 climbing zucchini is a good example. It's been bred for the long stem, so it can grow upward along a trellis.
You can't harvest seeds from our climbing zucchini
If you do collect its seeds, chances are that the plants will either look completely different or grow just like regular zucchinis.

Heirloom seeds

You can save seeds from vegetables grown from heirloom seeds. These are heritage plant varieties that have been around for a long time. If you sow their seeds, exactly the same plant will grow.

Dino kale is an heirloom variety, as is New Zealand spinach.

The flowers (and seeds) of New Zealand spinach grow along the stem. In the fall, you can easily pick them off:
Harvest New Zealand spinach seeds along the stem

Where are the seeds?

Seeds are always found where the flower used to be. So, if you want to harvest seeds from a plant, it needs to have gone to flower first.

With many herbs and flowers, it's easy to locate the seeds.

Birds already got to this sunflower and ate some of its seeds:
You can easily identify the seeds on our sunflowers
Some flowers turn into works of art.

Just look at Little Miss Green's garden:
Flowers in Little Miss Green's garden
The flowers are beautiful, bees love them, and the seed pods are pretty too:
Saving seeds from Little Miss Green's flowers
Plus, you can eat the flowers and seeds, too. They taste a little nutty.

Marigolds like these have single flowers that are easy to collect seeds from. Plus, bees and bumblebees love them:
Marigold flowers
I'm not a big fan of these marigolds: the smell gets to me.

But the scent is a good thing for the vegetable garden. It's a natural pest repellent and they generate a substance in the soil that root-eating nematodes hate. Pretty handy.

To harvest the seeds, pick a dried-out flower and break it open. This is what you'll see:
Marigold seeds
Enough for a whole marigold field, if you want 😉

The licorice mint is a fun one. You can easily shake the seeds out of the dried flower:
Liquorice mint seeds
Indian cress is even easier. Simply pick up the ripe seeds. They drop off the dead flowers in the fall:
Indian cress seeds at the foot of the plant
You can harvest a lot of seeds from vegetables too. Sometimes they look different when the seeds are ready for collecting. Take red lettuce: it turns green again.

Harvest before or after flowering?

You harvest some vegetables after they go to flower, like snow peas, beans, and zucchini.

But many vegetables should have their seeds saved before the plant starts to flower. Like most of the vegetables with leaves, you harvest, for example, and your root vegetables too.

For kale plants, you'll collect the seeds just as the flowers start to bloom.

How do you harvest the seeds?


Pumpkin seeds are the easiest. That's because you don't harvest a pumpkin until it's fully ripe and the pumpkin stalk looks like a cork: hard and dried out.
Dried, corky stems mean your pumpkins are ripe.
The seeds in the pumpkin are ready for saving. You scoop them out of the pumpkin and rinse them until they no longer feel sticky.

Let them dry on a tea towel or paper towel, rub off the membrane, and you're done.

But beware: if you grew zucchini in your garden too, then I wouldn't recommend saving the seeds. There's a chance the pumpkins were pollinated with the zucchini. If you sow the seeds, you'll probably end up with something weird 😉

Zucchini and cucumbers (heirloom varieties only)

You usually harvest zucchinis and cucumbers when they're not yet completely ripe. That's when they're tastiest.

To get the seeds, you'll have to let a few of them hang around and grow huge:
Zaden oogsten uit een komkommer
Seeds from a cucumber that's too large to eat
The cucumber itself is no longer edible. Also, the plant stops making new fruit when the big ones are left hanging. So wait until the end of the season to grow fruits for seed saving.

Some people say you shouldn't harvest seeds from your zucchinis because they can become poisonous. This is usually not true, but you can read exactly how it works here.

By the way, our snack cucumber and climbing zucchini are F1 seeds, so they aren't suitable for seed saving.


Peas and beans are easy. Leave them hanging until the peas in the pods get big. When the pods are completely dry, collect the beans or peas inside.
Dried out peas with seeds ready to harvest
The seeds - the beans or peas - have hardened and can be stored until next year. These plants also stop flowering when they have ripe seeds: they've completed their goal to produce offspring.

Lettuce, root vegetables, and kales

To harvest the seeds of leafy greens, purposely let a few plants in your garden boxes go to flower. In the photo below, you can see the flower buds already appearing at the top of the mini head lettuce.
Head lettuce about ready to flower
The leaves won't taste that good at this point. If you wait long enough, buds will appear. Once the buds have finished flowering, you can find the seeds in the ovary below the flower.

Same goes for dino kale. But you'll have to wait until the spring for that.
Dino kale flowers in early spring
The flowers bloom in early spring. If you leave the plants for a little longer, thin pods will appear:
Dino kale seed pods
When the pods are completely dry, you can pick them from the plant. Open then and you'll find the dino kale seeds tucked inside:
Dino kale seeds

Harvesting and storing

Collected seeds should be dried thoroughly before storage. You can let them dry out in a cool dry place out of the sun. When they're completely dry, put them in bags. Write their name on them right away so you don't forget what's in there 😉

Store the bags in a dry, cool and dark place. A sealed container in the fridge is perfect.


So, harvesting seeds does take some patience.

I sowed the dino kale above in May. It survived the mild winter, started flowering in the spring, and in July the seeds were ready for collecting.

That took more than a year. Maybe you're not sure it's worth the trouble.

But if your plants have started flowering anyway - or if you accidentally left the beans or snow peas hanging too long - it doesn't take much to pick them and put them in a bag, right? Same goes for your flowers.

And just think how fun it will be to sow your own seeds next year.

Have fun seed saving!
PS: Do you want to know more about our way of vegetable gardening?

Read more here

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