Producing your own vegetable seeds


This article may give you ideas on how to become more independent in the production of garden vegetables by saving their seeds and using them to produce seedlings.

No more ready seedlings

I don’t like buying garden seedlings from the nursery every year. It makes no sense to buy 4 salad plants for €1.99 or large grafted tomato plants for €3.50. To produce seeds you start with non-hybrid seeds from which you can keep seeds for next year, preferably heirloom seeds. Not only for economic reasons, but also because we want to have control over the quality and origin of the seeds and the possibility of conserving local and native varieties.

Preserve the seeds

To preserve the seeds of garden plants, it is important to collect them at the right time, when they are fully ripe. Once collected, the seeds must be cleaned and dried completely before storing. A good option for long-term storage is to place the seeds in paper bags or any other container, labeled with the name of the plant and the harvest date, and store in a cool, dry place.

To avoid moisture buildup, you can add bags of dried rice to your seed containers. Furthermore, it is important to periodically check the seeds to ensure that they have not deteriorated.

The problem with hybrids

Hybrid plant seeds are the result of a cross between two different varieties of the same species. These seeds may have interesting characteristics such as greater disease resistance or greater productivity, but the main problem is that seeds from hybrid plants do not produce plants with the same characteristics as their parents.

In other words, if you plant the seeds of a hybrid plant, the resulting plants may have different characteristics than the original plant. This can be a problem for farmers trying to obtain a certain plant variety with specific characteristics.

Furthermore, hybrid plants are often unable to reproduce naturally and therefore cannot be used for seed production. This means that farmers have to keep buying seeds every time they want to plant that particular hybrid variety.

The genetics of vegetables

In genetics, crosses between individuals with dominant and recessive genetic traits give rise to a first generation of F1 hybrids which presents only the dominant trait. The cross between an individual with two dominant AA alleles and one with two recessive aa alleles generates an offspring of Aa hybrid individuals that present only the dominant trait.

This type of crossing is known as incomplete dominance crossing and allows you to obtain hybrids with desired characteristics, such as resistance to diseases or greater productivity, but often, the seeds of hybrid plants do not produce plants with the same characteristics as the parents, so for To get the same results again you need to buy the seeds again.

An F1 seed bag often contains seeds with ‘incomplete dominance’ Aa hybrids. When two Aa hybrid individuals are crossed with each other, a second generation of F2 hybrids is obtained. In this case, the seeds of the F2 progeny can have three different combinations of alleles: AA, Aa and aa. It is not possible to precisely predict which characteristics will be present in the F2 offspring, but theoretically it will be 25% complete recessive AA, 50% incomplete dominant Aa and 25% complete dominant AA. To make an F3, the improbability of pure vegetables will be even less predictable, also considering that the characteristics of a vegetable are rarely based only on a single gene.

Piselli di Mendel
In the photo: an experiment done by Mendel, the father of genetics. Note that the F1 generation peas all have the smooth yellow pea phenotype. In F2 the rough green pea phenotype appears only slightly.

‘Heirloom seeds’ or ‘true seeds’

Ancient seeds are more likely to contain combinations of recessive alleles such as aa and bb, as well as dominant ones such as AA and BB, and fewer Aa and Bb hybrids.

Example of heirloom seeds: With a cross between AA bb and AA bb almost all the next generation becomes: AA bb, like its parent! Almost, because it is very difficult to find pure genotype seeds even if they have been selected for centuries.

Both “heirloom seeds” and “true seeds” refer to seeds that have been saved for generations and that produce plants with the same characteristics as their parents. Ancient or ‘heirloom’ seeds are those that have been passed down from generation to generation, often within a family or community, and have been selected for their specific characteristics.

In general, true seeds or heirloom seeds are considered more valuable than hybrid seeds because they produce plants with stable and predictable characteristics.

Furthermore, true seeds or ancient seeds are often used for the conservation of local varieties and native species, as they are less vulnerable to climate change and diseases than hybrid ones.

Producing your own seeds is not difficult!

Producing your own seeds is a relatively simple process. For example, I let some vegetables such as lettuces and chard flower to collect the seeds, and I leave some courgettes to grow and ripen to extract the seeds. After a wash, I place the seeds to dry on a piece of cloth or cardboard. In the same way I also save pumpkin seeds, which are also good as a snack. I use the pulp of ripe courgettes in winter soups, carefully removing the hard skin.


I leave the tomato seeds to ferment for 1 or 2 days in their slimy, watery liquid. Fermenting removes the sliminess and so they are easier to wash in a sieve and dry on a piece of cloth. After a few days they are easily removed from the piece of fabric. I don’t use scraps of paper because the seeds can’t be removed. Then I put the seeds in a paper bag recycled from sugar or flour and write the description and the year.

It is useful to produce many tomatoes to eat fresh, from the end of July to October, and to preserve in various ways: sauce, whole pieces vacuum-packed, ready-made sauce with carrots and onions, dried.

It is important to start with non-hybrid, non-F1, non-genetically modified seeds and you should not get seeds from grafted vegetable plants or supermarket vegetables. I once planted seeds from a store-bought tomato. It grew a beautiful plant, but all the flowers dried up and the plant made no tomatoes.

Cabbage seeds

Cabbage seeds are easy to produce (even if cabbages crossbreed). One year I made 2 kilos of cabbage seeds which can also be used to make sprouts for salad. Very good and a little spicy.

Courgettes and Pumpkins

Unique crossbreeds are created with courgettes and pumpkins. I like it when there are nice surprises with different shapes and colors and tastes than usual.

The various types of pumpkin belonging to the same family can be crossed with variations in flouriness, sweetness, firmness, color and shape.


Garlic cloves are normally planted to create new garlic plants that will be exact copies of the original plant in the genetic sense. It doesn’t change anything whether you use an inner or outer clove of garlic. The only thing that could have an influence is that the internal segments are smaller and will develop less quickly and will be less thick. The genetics are the same, they are clones.

Garlic also makes small bulbs and flowers at the top of its stem, but not always. Mini bulbs are bulbils and are also genetically the same (clones). Real flowers can form between these mini bulbs. If you remove the mini bulbs from between the real flowers, they may produce small black seeds (similar to leek or onion seeds). With these seeds you could create your own variant of garlic suitable for your territory. Ultimately if you like a certain type of garlic you can easily duplicate it by planting cloves. The duplication is easy, but creating the seeds and germinating them is the hard part.

bulbilli di aglio
garlic bulbils with some real flowers in the middle

Since man has duplicated garlic with bulbs for millennia, the plant almost no longer knows how to reproduce with seeds. Even chickens have been born for decades in an electric brooder with the result that they no longer know how to brood or brood. This is a human-driven evolution that creates human dependence.

Personally I have not yet managed to produce these real seeds. I think (I haven’t done any research) that the DNA of the plant remains almost the same with the clones (a favorable mutation can always happen) but when I use the bulbils for a few generations to reproduce the garlic, the plant will have more of a tendency to produce the stem with bulbils and any flowers. The plant adapts to the environment without changing the DNA sequence. In this case it might even go back to producing some real seeds again.

Garlic has another strange characteristic. Cloves can also form not only near the ground but also in the middle of the stem. I also try to select this garlic, because they are beautiful and healthy cloves.

spicchi di aglio sullo stelo
cloves of garlic on the stem