Saving Seeds for Next Year's Garden

2 Materials

Saving seeds from open-pollinated vegetables and flowers is a long time tradition in our family.
Today, I will be showing you how to save seeds from some prolific, yellow marigolds and my favorite red okra. It's super easy and can save you lots of money!
**please note-if plants are hybrids, they will not come back exactly the same**
Marigold flower bed from saved seeds
First, you will need some basic supplies. I use a harvest basket, brown paper lunch sacks, pruners, and a pen. It's best to do this task after the morning dew is completely gone as you want the seed pods to be as dry as possible.
Next, look for a healthy plant. Both marigolds and okra are very resistant to pests and can take intense summer sun. But, if they look diseased or stressed in any way, don't take seeds from that plant.
The photo above shows a marigold in different stages. Far left shows a nice bloom and good color. In the center, the flower is past its prime and this is the stage I usually dead-head. Just right of the center, is a brown seed pod. This is what you will harvest for seed.
Marigold seed pod
Pinch off as many seed pods as you want and place them in a brown paper sack. Be sure and label the sack with the type of flower and color. Roll the top down to close the sack and place it in your harvest basket. Now let's move to the vegetable garden.
Red Burgundy Okra
Red burgundy okra tastes the same as the standard green okra with the only difference being the color. Both stems and pods are red and are great to use in fall decorations. The above photo shows okra pods too long to eat (too tough) but not mature enough to harvest seeds.
red burgundy okra seed pod
This pod is ready to harvest for seeds. The outer covering is hard and brittle and may be splitting enough to see the seeds.
okra seeds in center
Using your pruners, cut the dried pods from the stalk and place in a separate bag. Even though these seeds look completely different from marigolds, it will save time if they have their own bag. Now we are ready to prepare these seeds for storage.
Place a paper towel over the paper plate (you can use just a paper towel, but the plate makes it easier to move around). Let's do the marigolds first. Open the bag of seed pods and pour them on the paper towel. Break apart the pods and spread the seeds out. Depending on how many seed pods you collected, you may need another plate.
marigold seeds
For okra, take out a pod and, starting from the top and working down, press open. It should split and seeds will roll out everywhere. This will only be one section so don't quit!
keep going....
Press your fingernail into the center of this white membrane to open another section. Keep doing this until all seeds are removed.
When you are done, let the seeds dry for 1-2 weeks. It probably doesn't take that long for them to dry, but I tend to be over cautious when it comes to this step. I don't want to open a package of moldy, useless seeds in the spring.
After the drying period, I place the seeds in a labeled envelope and store in a larger container in a cool, dark room. I even throw in a few desiccant packets for good measure.
If you don't have time to lay out the seeds on a paper towel, just leave them in the brown paper sack and store in a cool, dark room. I actually do this all the time since I save so many seeds. Then, when the days get cooler and darkness comes at 5:30, I have a project to work on.
Happy Gardening!

Suggested materials:

  • Harvest basket, pruners  (Tractor Supply)
  • Brown paper lunch sacks, paper plates, paper towels, pen  (Wal-Mart)

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Eroque022810
    on Sep 19, 2016

    So what do you do with them the following yr? Is this seeds that you can just put straight into ground or do you have start them inside? Thanks

    • Karen Selberg-Lavelle
      on Sep 29, 2016

      Marigolds are suppose to be rabbit repellent flowes. Unfortunately the 'black birds' (the ones the same size as robins) pick the flowers off! I would love to plant marigolds again because the rabbit generations are increasing. I do let my moss roses and columbine, as well as my red leaf lettuce drop and grow from one spring to the next. I showed the neighbor kids where the flower seeds came from. They thought that was pretty cool. You have great ideas for harvesting and storing seeds. Thanks for posting.

Join the conversation

2 of 45 comments
  • Mary Hart
    on Nov 13, 2016

    As a quick side note and if you don't mind the suggestion, if you have really, really small seeds that are difficult to pick up much less see and plant, try putting them in empty spice bottles with shaker tops and lids that have been washed and dried thoroughly. The ones that have the tops with holes in them make it easier to control. And you can tape some of the holes closed if you want to shake less out. I plant a lot of different varieties of poppy seeds, which I'm sure you know are hard to hold much less control where they go in the ground.

  • Natural State Flower Farm
    on Nov 13, 2016

    That's a great idea! Thanks!

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