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The best time to save seeds from your open-pollinated tomato varieties is when the first tomatoes ripen.
Seed saving is so simple, yet there are also many differing opinions on best practice. Here are the three general ways to save tomato seed:
- Drying unfermented seeds on an absorbent material, such as newspaper or paper towels
- Fermentation, followed by drying on paper plates or another absorbent surface: The advantage is that it helps remove any pathogens on the seed surface, and below or in the surrounding seed gel. The seeds end up clean, attractive, and easy to package and store.
Fermenting also removes the natural germination inhibitor that coats tomato seeds, leaving the seeds vulnerable to germination. That’s why it’s important to limit the amount of time the seeds are fermenting; otherwise, you would end up with sprouted tomato seeds.
Here is how to ferment: Cut the tomato in half and squeeze each half over the labeled cup to capture the seeds and gel; swirl it in a bowl and pour it into a labelled plastic cup. Cover it and keep it in a warm, not lit space (hot weather 2 days; cool weather 5 days); fermentation makes a foam crust. Then add water 1″ above, mix and let settle: good seeds will sink, bad seeds and debris will swim. Separate them; repeat the process until the water remains clear. Put seeds into a fine sieve and rinse again. Now put the seeds in a single layer on a non-waxed paper plate and let dry for 1 week (screen from insects).
- Chemical treatment with no fermentation, followed by drying: Add a 10 percent Trisodium Phosphate/water solution to the seeds and pulp until the cup is approximately three-quarters full. Let the seeds soak in the TSP solution for 15 minutes, which will dissolve the gel and remove any pathogens. Pour off the top material and sieve and rinse the seeds, then return them to the cup. Add a 10 percent bleach solution to the seeds until the cup is about one-quarter full, and soak them for one to two minutes. Sieve once more, and use hot (49°C/120°F) water for the rinse. You are then ready to scrape the seeds onto the plates for final drying.
Store all seeds either in a sealed dry container; or mix them with wood ashes or put them in silica gel and freeze them.
When in doubt, test seeds out! Moisten the paper towel or coffee filter. Fold 10 seeds into the towel or filter. Seal the paper seed-filled towel in a zipper bag and then be sure to mark the bag to identify the seeds. Place the bag in a location where the temperature is around 70 degrees. (We test exactly 10 seeds because easily correlates to a percentage. If 8 seeds sprout, you will know you have about 80 percent viability for that particular plant variety.)
Wait 7-10 days. Be sure the paper towel or filter does not dry out during this time. Count the number of seeds which germinate and calculate the percentage. If less than 70 to 90 percent (less than 7 of your 10 tested seeds) have germinated, then planting with those seeds would not be worth the effort. If 70 to 90 percent have germinated, use them but sow them thickly. Performing seed viability tests makes seed saving a less risky endeavor.
The seeds of most crops will keep for a year or more if stored in a dry place, but will soon be killed by repeated wetting or submersion. Dry seeds also suffer less from cold.
Gases — particularly carbon dioxide and oxygen — can have a marked effect on the enzymes and chemical components of a living seed.
Keep seeds in a dry and COOL place (to control micro-organisms and fungi).
Origami Seed starter sets from newspaper
- Fold paper in 3 equal parts
- cut slits down on both sides to 1/3 of the hight
- roll the rectangle and slide the slits into each other
- fold the outer, small parts back and fix them with a paper clip
- Choose a pipe with the diameter of your plug (2″ is great); cut the length of your plug + 1″ (3″).
- bolt 4″ long with some washers with a diameter that fits inside the pipe; you can add a wood plug if you wish
- push the pipe in a wet seed-soil-mix (see below); the mix should be moist so it sticks and holds
- Push out the plug into your seed tray
- place the seed in the whole and cover with vermiculite
- for seeds that need to be deeper: fill the pipe half, put the seed, fill the pipe up and make the plug
- 2 parts* coconut coir a good substitute for peat moss, because it is a much faster renewed material
- 1 part finished, sifted compost
- 1 part perlite is volcanic rock; you can also use vermiculite or simple coarse sand. All these 3 ingrediences help to prevent the soil from compacting and ensure good drainage; perlite and vermiculite have the additional advantage that they can hold much water.
cover the seeds with vermiculite