When it comes to saving tomato seeds, you can choose almost any tomato from any plant and have a degree of success. But these tips will help you optimize your efforts to get the best and strongest seeds for next year.
Save seeds from “open pollinated” (OP) or heirloom tomatoes. These are varieties that have been reproduced for generations. They are true to their type from their own seed, which means the next season’s plants maintain the same characteristics as they previous one. Open pollinated tomatoes are known for their consistent traits over time.
In contrast, hybrid tomatoes are a careful cross between two genetically different tomato varieties. Commercial seed producers collect pollen from one variety and used to pollinate flowers of another variety.
Expert gardeners advise against saving tomato seeds from hybrids and using them to grow plants. It’s not that hybrid tomato seeds won’t produce plants – they will. But there’s no way to tell whether or not the fruit will be good. Second generation hybrid tomatoes have questionable genetic make up and resulting tomatoes can yield inconsistent fruit.
All the same, many home gardeners have had considerable success saving hybrid tomato seeds and using them to start plants the following season. Best Tomato Dirt recommendation: save some hybrid seeds for fun, if you’d like. But concentrate your seed saving efforts on heirloom (open pollinated) tomatoes.
It’s tempting to eat your crown jewels of the garden – your very best, healthiest tomatoes. But remember this:
good tomatoes = good seeds = good plants next yearSave just a few of your “best” tomatoes for their seeds. You can still eat the meaty part of the tomato. “Best” can be defined by several criteria:
Save seeds from tomatoes that are in their prime, but not over-ripe. Seeds inside over-ripe tomatoes may have already started to rot or even germinate.
Saving tomato seeds from multiple fruits (rather than just one or two) of a particular variety gives you a strong selection of seeds. Boost your seed collection even more when you save seeds from a specific variety at different times during the season. You can use extra saved seeds to give as gifts or to exchange with other gardeners on a seed exchange forum.
Generally, tomatoes pollinate themselves. But be aware that nature can take quirky turns. If you have different tomato varieties planted in close proximity to each other along with a healthy bee and insect population, there’s a chance that varieties may cross-pollinate. If you’re resolved to have pure seed of a single variety, plant your tomatoes six feet apart from other types. You can separate them by good companion plants for further insurance.
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By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source for growing tomatoes and using them.
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