Category Archives: Seed Saving

6 Steps to Save Pepper Seed

Many gardeners are getting large pepper harvests in August. Maybe you grew jalapeños or sweet bananas and are pickling them, or Aji Dulce spice peppers and are drying them, and perhaps you’re freezing Carolina wonders. Whatever the case, you might also want to save pepper seed. It’s a simple process. Peppers are an excellent crop for beginner seed savers.

Consider Isolation Distances

Peppers will sometimes cross-pollinate. Meaning that if you want to save seed from a Brazilian Starfish (pitanga) hot pepper (pictured above) and have it produce the same peppers next year, you need to keep them isolated from the other peppers in your garden. 

We recommend you isolate sweet varieties by 150 feet and hot and sweet varieties by 300 feet. Another technique you may want to try is hand pollination. You can keep your peppers from crossing by covering blossoms with pollination bags and then hand pollinating them, ensuring they are only pollinated with the peppers you wish.

Of course, we have also discussed promiscuous pollination’s advantages on the blog. No law says you can’t save seed from peppers that weren’t perfectly isolated. You may end up with peppers that display little change from their parent, or you could end up with a fantastic cross between those Brazilian Starfish and the habaneros in the bed next door, but that’s part of the fun!

Consider Population Size

You can get viable seeds from a single pepper plant. However, to preserve genetic diversity and a variety for years to come, you should aim to save seeds from 5 to 20 plants each year.  

Harvest the Peppers When Fully Mature

Harvesting to save seed isn’t the same as harvesting to eat or preserve. You want your peppers to mature fully, which may be about two weeks after you usually harvest. They should be fully ripe in color, either red, purple, or yellow, depending on the variety, and beginning to soften.

If frost threatens before the peppers appear to be fully mature, pull the whole plant. Shake the dirt off the roots and hang your plant upside down in a cool, dry location. A garage or outbuilding may be suitable for this. Most of the peppers will finish maturing. 

Process

Work in an area with good ventilation. Especially if you’re dealing with very hot varieties, it may be best to wear gloves to process your peppers and avoid touching your hands and face. If you’re doing a lot of peppers, it may also be necessary to work in a dust mask or respirator.

One of the easiest ways to access the pepper seeds is to cut around the top and pull it out, using the stem as a handle. Then you can gently scrape off the seeds with a knife or your fingers. Rinse your pepper seeds and remove any unwanted material.

If you’re working bare-handed, wash well with soap and warm water.

Dry

Next, dry your seeds on paper, paper towels, coffee filters, or dehydrator screens (don’t put them in the dehydrator). They will need to dry for several days out of direct sunlight. When they’re fully dry, you should be able to snap one in half with your fingers. If it isn’t dry, it will bend instead of easily snapping.

Store Properly 

Once completely dry, store pepper seeds in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. If stored properly, they should easily last for three years, giving you many future pepper harvests!

Saving pepper seed is easy! Follow these steps and have quality, viable seeds to start your crop next spring. 

7 Steps to Saving Cabbage Seed

Most seed savers get started with a few large-seeded, easy-to-grow and harvest crops, like beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and squash. If you’re ready to take the next step in your seed-saving journey or have an adventurous spirit, you may be ready to tackle cabbage. Saving cabbage seed can be tricky for a couple of reasons, but it is doable. Keep reading to learn the steps to save seed from your favorite cabbage varieties

Choose a Variety

To get viable seed, you want to grow an open-pollinated cabbage variety. All the cabbages we carry at SESE are open-pollinated. To learn more about what open-pollinated means, check out our post, What’s in a Seed: Open-Pollinated Vs. Hybrid Vs. GM.

Consider Isolation Distance

One of the tricky parts about saving seed from cabbages and other brassicas is that there are so many brassicas. This makes it difficult to save seed from more than one variety each year. For example, you may want to save seed from cabbage, but you can’t just isolate it from other cabbages. Cabbage will cross with kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale!

To prevent this problem, all you need to do is only let one of your brassicas go to flower each year. Harvest the others before they bolt. Unlike many brassicas, cabbages are biennial, meaning they flower and set seed the second year. This can be helpful when preventing them from crossing with other seed crops. 

If you’re determined to save seed from multiple brassicas or cabbage varieties, you’ll need to isolate them. For home use, isolate your cabbages by 1/8 of a mile. For pure seed, small plantings need to be isolated by 14 to 1/2 a mile!

Select Your Best Plants

When you save seed, you want to think about maintaining the quality of a variety or maybe even improving it each year. To do this, you should save seed from your best plants. You can consider disease resistance, drought tolerance, earliness, flavor, and more when selecting plants. Check out our blog post, Selecting Plant Characteristics, to learn more.

You also want to ensure you save seed from enough plants to preserve viable genetics. For home use, five plants may be enough. However, to maintain a variety over a long period, you want to save seed from 20 to 50 plants each year. 

Overwinter Your Cabbages

Cabbage is a biennial, meaning that it flowers and sets seed during its second year of life. To get your cabbage to set seed, you’ll need it to overwinter. In areas with 10 to 12 weeks of cool weather below 50°F that doesn’t regularly dip below 35°F, you can overwinter cabbages in the field.

If you live in a colder climate, you’ll need to overwinter your cabbages in a sheltered location. Dig them up and pot them in large containers filled with damp potting mix or sand. Leave the heads intact but trim off any loose or dying leaves. Keep the roots as intact as possible.

Move the containers into a root cellar or unheated basement, garage, or shed. Ideally, you want to keep them between 34 and 40°F. In the spring, plant them back out in the field. You may need to stake them.

Ensure Seeds are Fully Mature

You need to catch cabbage seeds at the right time. They won’t continue to mature once removed from the plant, so it’s crucial to ensure that the seed pods and the seeds inside become dry and brown. Don’t wait too long, though! Dry pods may begin to shatter and drop seeds, or birds may take them.

Harvest Your Seeds

It’s easiest to harvest seeds by cutting off entire branches. Then place them on an old sheet. You can use your hands to break the pods or thresh them by hitting them with a thick stick or rod. Mature seed should separate from the pods readily.

Store Your Seeds

Once seeds are fully dry they can be stored somewhere cool and dark in airtight containers. Cabbage seed should remain viable for several years. Learn how to do a simple germination test here.

Proper Seed Storage: 3 Key Steps

This time of year, there’s not much work to do in the garden. We’re mostly looking ahead to next spring, planning garden rotations, new beds, and selecting varieties we’d like to grow next season. One chore that may still need to be taken care of is seed storage. Properly storing seeds will ensure they remain viable for a long time. There are three main things to consider when storing your seeds this winter, whether they’re leftover packets or seeds you saved from your garden. 

Keep them cool.

Cooler temperatures help keep seeds in dormancy. The Svalbard Global Seed Storage Vault, which hopes to be the “ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply,” stores seeds at about -0.4°F or -18ºC to keep the seeds viable for long periods. 

While that isn’t necessary or even possible for most home gardeners, generally, you want to keep your seeds as cool as possible. Storing seeds below 40°F is optimal, but between 50° and 60° will work just fine. Get creative and think about what areas in your home always remain cool, whether it’s your basement or a particular cupboard, closet.

It’s important to remember that freezing and thawing or any significant temperature changes can mimic seasonal changes and cause seeds to deteriorate. Freezers can be a great place to store seeds, but if you frequently lose power during the winter, it may be better to put your seeds in a cool cabinet than into the freezer to avoid significant temperature fluctuations.

Keep them dry.

Moisture also signals seeds to germinate. If you’re saving seeds, make sure they’re fully dry before you package them. Larger seeds should easily snap in half and not bend. Smaller seeds should shatter under pressure. 

Use airtight containers such as mason jars to store seeds. It’s also a good idea to avoid storing seeds in the refrigerator or unheated garages and sheds due to the fluctuating moisture and temperature levels. 

Another option is to add silica gel packets or some dry rice to your jars or containers. These will help absorb any excess moisture. While this isn’t strictly necessary, it can provide a little extra protection.

Keep them in the dark.

Sunlight is detrimental to the long-term viability of seeds. It can signal to seeds that it’s time to sprout and cause the seeds to break down. You can place jars or containers of seeds in a dark cabinet or a larger solid color tote or container. 

A few other things to consider:

  • Label everything! Label your containers with the date seeds were stored and when you’ve done germination tests. 
  • Especially when storing grain seed, if you see signs of pest activity such as moths or weevils, place it in an airtight container in the freezer for two days to kill them.
  • Organize your seeds and make a list of what you have to avoid over-ordering this winter.

Properly storing your seeds can save you time and frustration. Follow these tips to ensure your seeds stay viable for as long as possible. Check out a few more of our seed-related posts below: