Saving Seeds & Open Pollinated Varieties
When you see just how many seeds there are in a tomato it almost seems a waste not to use some of them for sowing next season.
Saving your own seeds is a great idea and here are a few tips for success.
How to save seeds from open pollinated varieties
Save seeds from open pollinated varieties because F1 hybrid seed will not grow true to type – like the parent plant. Also, use a ripe tomato as the seeds will be fully developed.
- Scoop them into a small glass jar with a drop of water and cover with paper held down by a rubber band.
- Keep at room temperature and the seeds will ferment in the jar after about a week.
Here’s a video that is very informative – it starts with an introduction (it’s not me in the hat!) but it’s well worth watching.
Air needs to get in and out – but not bugs.
Each seed is coated in jelly
Each seed is coated with jelly to stop it from germinating and it is this process that will remove this coating and sterilize the seeds at the same time.
After a week there will probably be a layer of mold on the top which is best removed before pouring the whole mixture into a sieve.
How to dry the seeds
Run under the tap to remove the jelly coating for a few minutes to clean the seeds then spread them out on an absorbent surface. Coffee filter paper is good but tissue is poor because it sticks to the seeds.
Dry out for several days in a warm aerated place until they are thoroughly dry.
Remember to label them and I like to keep them in a small plastic container such as an empty vitamin or pill container.
Storing the seeds
If you want to divide them up into small quantities for selling or giving to other gardeners, small glassine envelopes normally used for stamps are excellent.
Keep them in a cool place, ideally a fridge, until next season.
It is possible to save seeds from F1 hybrids but the problem is – they don’t grow “true to type” in other words, they won’t produce the same shape, colour, taste etc. tomatoes when their seeds are sown.
Every season has its challenges and this season, going by the amount of emails I’ve received, it’s getting flowers to pollinate and produce tomatoes – flower/fruit set.
This has become a bit of a mystery, but there maybe some clues in the following.
- Seeds that were sown in February have produced plants that don’t have a problem with pollination.
- The plants that have the problem with setting fruit were all sown in March.
- Tall varieties seem less affected than the Tumbling Tom bush variety.
- There have been less bees in my garden this season than in previous years and of course bees are excellent pollinators.
- I’ve also noticed that bees will often hover around the flowers without actually collecting any pollen – could this mean that there is no pollen inside the flowers?
At this point I could do with the help of Sherlock Holmes!
My limited powers of deduction tell me that Tumbling Tom, and some other varieties, are more difficult to get to set fruit than many other varieties. Some varieties need the help of bees to help pollinate their flowers.
In other words, when bees are in short supply, some varieties struggle to set fruit.
The varieties that were sown in February are Red Alert, Maskotka and a yellow Tumbling Tom. These three varieties have been producing ripe tomatoes since June.
It could be that the weather was just right when the February sown plants were ready to be pollinated, but not so conducive for the March sown plants.
Update (24th July) All of the Tumbling Tom plants have suddenly started to set fruit – at last!
Red Alert and Maskotka seem easy to set fruit and the good thing also is that they are open pollinated which means that we can save their seed for next season!
The Five Tumbling Toms
The pollination problem has particularly affected the Tumbling Tom plants which is unfortunate because it has interrupted the experiment with the five Tumbling Toms and their individual feeding plans.
However, there is still time for the many thousands of flowers on the plants to set and produce tomatoes before the end of the season!
On a successful note, the cuttings I took about four weeks ago set fruit while they were still in water, but they did have flowers on when I removed them from their plants, which helped!
As always, please leave comments below.