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The ABC of seed saving

Seed in a glass

At first: Why save seeds? 

Saving seeds is a great way to save money and be prepared for the following year, but it is also a way to pick out the best of what you have grown and save seeds from that specimen (flower, vegetable, etc.). With each successive year, you will be picking out the hardiest and delicious/beautiful specimens until you have amazing strains of your favorites. This is called ‘rogueing.’ If you harvest more seeds than you need, you can share your good fortune with others and give back to the Seed Library! 

But where do I start? 

It is easiest to start saving seeds from annual vegetables and flowers such as tomatoes, beans, basil, marigolds, zinnia, and sunflowers. It is essential to harvest the seeds when they are ‘mature.’ For a tomato, that is when the fruit is ripe. For a bean, it is when the pod has dried down on the plant. For many flowers, it is when the petals have fallen off or dried down, and the seeds have turned black. You will want to research more about each specific plant. Wet seeds such as tomatoes require a special process to remove the gel layer that surrounds the seeds.

Cool! Where do I keep the seeds?

It is crucial that your seeds completely dry before you store them, otherwise, they might mold. Once dry, they can be kept in a paper envelope. They will keep the best in a cool, dry location. Remember, seeds are alive, and if they are exposed to too much heat, they will lose too much moisture. If they have too much warmth and moisture, they might even germinate in storage.

Some additional ressources:

University of Illinois Extension Horticulture video

Talking Seed Saving and Seed Production with Gemini Bhalsod:


The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds by Robert Gough & Cheryl Moore-Gough

This is an excellent book with colorful diagrams and tons of information.


Seed Savers Exchange

Based in Decorah, Iowa, it houses a vast collection of seeds and educational information:


University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator


Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle



Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle is a Agriculture and Natural Resources (Horticulture) Educator for Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties.  She completed a bachelors of science degree in crop science at the University of Illinois, and a master’s of science degree in agronomy with an emphasis in weed science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She has also worked at Montana State University as a research associate where she worked on weed control in sugar beets and barley.  She taught high school chemistry and other science classes where she was able to teach students in both the school garden and greenhouse.  She works with both the Extension Master Gardeners and Extension Master Naturalists.


ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.