Saving heirloom tomato seeds from your crop is an excellent way of saving money in the next growing season as you do not need to buy new tomato seeds. Most people recommend that you ferment your tomato seeds to keep them, but this is not always necessary, and it’s not the only effective way of saving your tomato seeds. So, how can you save your tomato seeds without fermenting them?
There are three main ways of saving your tomato seeds without fermenting them: the paper towel method, the soil saving method, and the TPS and bleach saving method. These are relatively simple to do; just be sure to clean the seeds first to avoid any pathogens spreading to the seeds.
What are the steps for these three methods of saving tomato seeds? Which tomato seed saving method is the easiest to do? Once you have saved the tomato seeds, how do you store the seeds for long-term or short-term storage? Let us find out!
Ways To Save Tomato Seeds Without Fermenting
Saving seeds from your tomatoes is an excellent way to ensure you have a good tomato crap next year, too, without the need to go and buy new tomato seeds. The best time to save your tomato seeds is when the fruit has fully ripened, as this is when the seeds are mature enough to grow into a lovely new plant.
To ensure you get the purest form of the seeds of the tomato variant you are growing, you should use the first ripened tomatoes on the vine. This will reduce the chances of you saving seeds from a tomato fruit that was cross-pollinated by bees or other pollinators, which could affect the seeds of the tomato.
When you are saving your tomato seeds, you do not need to try and pick the best tomatoes on the vines for this purpose, as all the seeds from the tomatoes that have not been cross-pollinated are genetically the same.
There are three methods available to you that you can use to save your tomato seeds without fermenting them. These methods are relatively simple and do not require much equipment to do, so let us take a look at these methods.
Clean The Tomato Seeds
Before you try any of the seed-saving methods mentioned below, it is highly recommended to clean the tomato seeds first. This is a recommended step as the gel around the seeds can inhibit germination of the seeds and pass on pathogens and diseases to the new plant once it begins to grow.
Therefore, it is better to remove this gel layer before you save the tomato seeds, but it is not a requirement. For this process, you will need a jar, a small-holed sieve, a spoon, a bowl, and a knife to cut the tomatoes.
To clean the gel off the seeds, cut open the tomato and scoop out the seeds with the spoon and place them into a jar with a closable lid. Once you have taken out all the seeds, fill the jar halfway with warm water close to boiling temperatures and close the lid.
Leave the seeds to sit in the water for about five minutes. Once this time is up, gently swirl the jar around to disturb the water and seeds inside. Place the sieve above the bowl and pour the seed and water mixture through the sieve.
The cleaned seeds should stay in the sieve while the water and the gel of the tomato should drain through. Now your seeds are ready to save using the method below.
The Paper Towel Method Of Saving Seeds
The paper towel method of drying out and keeping seeds has been around for decades and works wonderfully; some say it works even better than fermenting them. This method is simple and easy, and it does not require any special equipment.
If you do not wish to clean the seeds, then the gel on the tomato seeds will break down on its own in time, but this could still leave lingering pathogens on the seeds.
For this method, you will need some paper towels, some tweezers or a spoon, and a knife to cut the tomato with.
Step 1 – cut open the tomato and place a sheet of paper towel down next to the sliced tomato. Then carefully clean the seeds as mentioned above.
Step 2 – either with tweezers or a spoon, remove the seeds from the sieve and place them on the paper towel.
Step 3 – try to separate the seeds as much as you can so they are not all clumped together, as this will affect the length of time the drying will take.
Step 4 – once all the seeds are on the paper towel, place the paper towel in a warm location out of direct sunlight.
The tomato seeds will take two or three weeks to dry out properly, so ensure you place them in a location where they can stay for this extended time. Once the seeds are dry, you can safely store them until the next planting season.
Save Tomato Seeds In The Soil
You can also volunteer some of your tomato seeds to be “saved in the ground.” If you wish to, you can separate your seed tomatoes into two piles and use one bundle for the paper towel saving methods, and the other you can use this one.
With this method, you do not need to clean your tomato seeds first, but it is not recommended that you only use this method as the seeds may not sprout due to unforeseen circumstances. With this method, you will be “planting” the tomato seeds in the ground to remain dormant until their growing season.
Step 1 – you will need to remove the seeds from the tomatoes and place them into a bowl.
Step 2 – you need to dig a hole in your garden, about 2 inches deep, that you know will not be disturbed between now and your tomato’s growing season, and that matches tomato plants’ requirements, and ensure you place some organic mulch on top of the soil too.
Step 3 – once the hole has been dug, pour the tomato seeds from the bowl into the hole and cover them with soil.
Step 4 – mark the location with a plant marker, so you remember where they are.
Then, remove the mulch layer in the spring, gently stir the ground underneath by hand, and water the location slightly.
Then cover the location with a cloche to help warm up the soil and “wake up” the tomato seeds. The tomato seeds should begin to sprout from the ground within the next few weeks if you care for them well.
TSP And Bleach Seed Saving Method
Saving tomato seeds with TSP and bleach is a relatively new method of saving seeds, but there are many people who swear by this method and believe it is the easiest and best way to do it. You do not need to clean the seeds first for this method, as the seeds will get cleaned during this process.
To use this method of saving your tomato seeds, you will need a small-holed sieve, a spoon, some water, trisodium phosphate (TSP), some bleach, a jar, or a cup you can write on, and a knife.
Step 1 – write the tomato variety and the date on the jar or cup you are using.
Step 2 – cut open the tomato, spoon out the seeds, and gel into the appropriate jar or cup.
Step 3 – if the gel in the cup or jar is too thick or dry to swirl, add some water to it.
Step 4 – move the cup or jar to a location where it will not be disturbed for a day or two; this will help separate the gel from the seeds. Make sure the seeds are out of direct sunlight, and cover the top with a paper towel.
Step 5 – after a day or two, mix a 10 percent trisodium phosphate and water solution, and add this into the jar or cup until it is filled halfway.
Step 6 – leave the seeds to soak in the solution for around 15 minutes; this will dissolve the gel
Step 7 – drain the seeds using the sieve and rinse them with water, placing them back into the jar or cup when this is done.
Step 8 – mix a 10 percent bleach and water mixture and fill the cup until it is around one-quarter full with the seeds, soaking them for two minutes.
Step 9 – sieve the seeds again and then rinse them with hot water that is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 10 – scrape the seeds off the sieve and place them on a paper towel for final drying.
This method is a bit more complicated and does take longer to complete, but this is the method that is highly recommended if you wish to store your tomato seeds for a long time as it completely kills and removes any bacteria, pathogens, and diseases from the seeds, and helps make the seeds dormant, meaning they should last longer.
How To Store The Tomato Seeds
Once you have cleaned your seeds and dried out your tomato seeds, you need to decide how long you wish to store these seeds as there are different storage methods based on the desired storage time. With tomato seeds, there are long-term or short-term storage methods that you can use.
If you will plant the seeds next growing season, then short-term storage is fine, but if you are unsure when you want to replant your tomatoes, then long-term storage is the better option.
When it comes to storing your tomato seeds, the biggest problem is moisture because if the seeds get wet or stored in a place with excess moisture can cause the seeds to rot. Let us go through long-term and short-term storage methods for your tomato seeds.
Short Term Tomato Seed Storage
Short-term tomato seed storage is simple and does not require a lot of equipment. Once the tomato seeds have been dried entirely on a paper towel, carefully fold the paper towel in half, ensuring you do not spill the seeds.
Then you place the paper towel containing the seeds into an envelop and place the envelope into a sealable container, one that is preferably airtight. You need to put this container in a dry and dark location that will remain at a cool temperature. When you are ready to plant your tomatoes again, you can simply open the container and plant the seeds.
Long Term Tomato Seed Storage
Long-term storage for your tomato seeds can be done in two ways, the first being in a container and the second being in the freezer.
To store your tomato seeds for long-term storage, you will need snap-top plastic vials or screw-top glass vials and labels. These vials are the best long-term storage containers as they are small and, therefore, easy to store, but more importantly, they do not allow moisture from the air into the vial. This will ensure your seeds are safe from rot during the long storage period.
Once your tomato seeds are completely dried out, remove them from the paper towel and place them into a vial. Then label the vial with the type of tomato and the date so you can keep track of how long the seeds have been stored for later.
Now you can place the seeds in your freezer or stack them in a box or different container that is then kept in a cool, dry, and dark location. Using this method, your tomato seeds could last up to 14 years.
If you freeze your seeds and you finally want to plant them again, you should wait until the seeds have reached room temperature before you open them, as this will help protect them from the moisture in the air.
Saving your tomato seeds is not a difficult task and will not require a lot of your time. The methods mentioned above are a great way to help save your tomato seeds for the next growing season, or you can even store them for longer if you need to. Good luck with keeping your tomato seeds, and enjoy planting them next season!