In the current economic situation, we all look at ways to save money. So, if you want to know how do you save tomato seeds for next year, to save money on seeds, we will tell you.
Homegrown tomatoes are an absolute joy. But buying seeds on a regular basis can get expensive. Especially, in times when money is tight.
Even if seeds are cheaper than plug plants, they still cost money.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get free tomato seeds year after year? And you can, by saving seeds from your tomatoes.
That’s why, in this article, we answer the question: how do you save tomato seeds for next year?
Why Save Tomato Seeds?
Before we get down to the facts about how do you save tomato seeds for next year, let’s look at the benefits.
- Saves money – rather than buying a new packet (or packets of different varieties) every two years or so, you will have an unlimited supply of tomato seeds from cultivars you love
- Keep your favourite tomatoes forever – sometimes certain varieties disappear and are replaced by new ones. If this happens to your favourite tomato, it can be annoying, but if you save your tomato seeds, that will never happen
- It’s easy – unlike with some plants, it’s very easy to save seeds from your homegrown tomatoes
- Keep for 5 years – if you store your seeds correctly they will keep for up to 5 years, which means you don’t have to do it every year
- Know you get quality – nowadays you can buy tomato seeds over the internet, but not all sellers are reputable. By saving your own seeds, you know that you will get quality organic tomato seeds
Important Things To Know
If you want to know how do you save tomato seeds for next year, there are some important things you should know.
1. Not All Tomatoes Are Suitable
Only open-pollinated varieties work for collecting seeds. This means, don’t use hybrid tomatoes, also called F1 varieties.
Because their parent plants are genetically different from each other, so you won’t get the same plant they came from. While you can give it a go, see it as an experiment.
I would suggest getting heirloom tomatoes, as these will be open-pollinated, and they tend to taste better than hybrid ones.
Also, you can get unusual tomatoes when you try heirloom cultivars.
If you are unsure if the tomatoes in your garden are hybrids or not, just check the packet. As it is a law in the UK that they have to be marked as such.
2. Only Save Seeds From Healthy Plants
Because some diseases can be stored in the seeds, it is important that you only save seeds from healthy plants.
Otherwise, the new plants you are growing will also get the disease. And this would be a shame.
Even if the fruit look OK, you can never be sure that the disease has not also affected the fruits. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Equally, only save seeds from tomatoes that look healthy. If they are discoloured, split or in any other way unhealthy, it is better not to save their seeds.
3. Make Sure The Tomatoes Are Fully Ripe
Viable seeds only come from ripe tomatoes, therefore, it is important that you only save seeds from a ripe fruit.
Ripe tomatoes are red and come off easily. If you are growing different coloured varieties, such as orange or yellow, make sure the colours are deep before picking.
If your seeds don’t germinate next year, it could be because the tomatoes they came from were not fully ripe.
4. Save As Many Seeds As You Want
You can save as many seeds as you want for next year’s crop, one tomato has a huge number of seeds, so collecting an almost unlimited number of seeds isn’t much work.
And because they will keep for up to 5 years when stored correctly, you will have enough time to use them up.
Although most of the time, two tomatoes per plant is more than enough.
But maybe you need some eco-friendly and cheap gifts for friends and family. Seeds from your own plants make a great gift, especially for fellow gardeners.
How Do You Save Tomato Seeds For Next Year Using The Fermenting Method?
Now that you know all these important things, let’s answer the question: how do you save tomato seeds for next year?
Tomato seeds can be saved through fermentation, which is a really simple chemical process that anyone can do. It’s the most reliable method, as it imitates what would happen in nature.
As you have probably noticed, the tomato seeds sit in a jelly like substance. This keeps the seeds together and keeps them from germinating.
When the fruits are eaten by an animal, the jelly dissolves in the stomach and the seeds are excreted. When it’s warm enough, thy will germinate and a new plant will grow.
The fermenting method imitates this process.
In the following, we will explain step-by-step how you save tomato seeds for next year.
Preparation is important, so my guide about how do you save tomato seeds for next year starts with this step.
Pick the tomatoes you want to use to save seeds. Make sure they are healthy and have fully ripened.
You need to wash your hands carefully first, to ensure that the seeds don’t get contaminated.
Get out all the things you need:
- a clean knife
- a clean spoon
- a clean glass jar
2. Extract The Seeds
Fill the jar with some water, about two fingers high. Then cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds together with the jelly and put into the jar.
Fermentation time is around four to five days. So, leave the jar for four to five days in a warm and dark place. During this time, mould will develop, which will kick off the fermentation process.
This mould will remove the gelatinous coating on the seeds, which will make them ready to germinate.
After four to five days, pour the seeds, water and mould into a clean sieve.
Wash the seeds thoroughly to get rid of the mould.
4. Dry The Seeds
Now the seeds are ready to be dried for storage.
Place them on a piece of paper or a paper plate. Paper towels are often recommended, but the seeds can stick to it, so I would recommend using a piece of paper.
Let them dry out completely, which could take a few hours.
When the clean seeds have dried out completely, put them into a paper envelope and close it.
Make sure you write the name of the variety and the date on the envelope.
Otherwise, you won’t know what the seeds are or how long you can use them for.
Then store them in a dark, cool place like your shed.
6. Sow Your Seeds
In Spring, sow your seeds as you would with bought seeds.
If you want to know how to grow tomatoes, read our guide about how to grow tomatoes from seed.
And there you go, now you have the answer to the question: how do you save tomato seeds for next year. Simple, isn’t it?
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions that weren’t answered in our guide about how do you save tomato seeds for next year, check out our FAQ section.
Can You Save Seeds From Store Bought Tomatoes?
This is a question many people ask. That’s why I wanted to include it in my guide about how do you save tomato seed for next year.
Maybe you haven’t grown any tomatoes yet, but want to try it, but without having to buy seeds.
The answer is, yes. However, there are two criteria the shop bought tomatoes fulfil:
- The tomatoes should not be a hybrid or F1 variety. – because you won’t know what you will get.
- The tomatoes must have been grown in the UK. – because otherwise you might not be able to grow them in your garden, if they won’t grow in our UK climate.
Can Tomato Plants Be Saved For Next Year?
Technically yes. In South America, where tomatoes originally came from, they are perennial plants. This means they come back every year.
However, these plants are wild tomatoes, which are more like shrubs, which are relatively cold tolerant.
The cultivated tomatoes that we grow in our gardens are different. While they are still technically perennial plants, they have bred to be heat-dependent and are therefore very sensitive to cold.
Our cold winters will cause the tomato plants to die as soon as temperatures fall below 10°C.
So in order to keep your tomato plants alive, you have to move them to a warm and light place, where you can control the temperature.
Also, you can only overwinter determinate tomatoes as whole plants.
Ideally, move these to a heated greenhouse, where you can make sure they have the right temperature and as much light as possible.
While they will flower over winter, it is best to remove the flowers, because it costs the plant a lot of energy.
From indeterminate tomatoes you can take cuttings, however, which you can grow over winter and replant in Spring.
If you want to give it a go, make sure you only overwinter healthy plants. Tomato plants are at risk to catch late blight as it comes to the end of the season.
An infected plant will not overwinter, but die and might infect other plants in your greenhouse.
Now that you know the answer to the question: how do you save tomato seeds for the next year, you can grow tomatoes for FREE every year. Happy Growing!