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How to Save Pumpkin Seeds for Growing Next Year

How to Save Pumpkin Seeds for Growing Next Year

This is a guest article by a Local Seeds’ seed grower. Jenny from Seaford Seeds Vic shares her top tips for anyone looking to learn how to save pumpkin seeds for growing next year. Please reach out if you’d like to contribute your seed saving skills or knowledge to Local Seeds. 🌱

Mmmmmm pumpkin. Tastes so good! Ever had that delicious pumpkin and wish you’d kept the seeds and grown your own so you can have it every day? Too easy! Now you can and here’s how…

Harvesting and saving pumpkin seeds is relatively straightforward, but the trick is you need to know if you have a hybrid variety or an heirloom. If you’ve grown it yourself from seed then it’s likely an heirloom and you’re good to go with a clear expectation of results for next season. If it’s a hybrid pumpkin bought from the shop, then you may not get the same pumpkin grow from the seed. In most cases though, you will still get a pumpkin! 

Harvesting your Own Pumpkin Seeds

If your pumpkin vine has fruited well and is strong and healthy, then earmark a pumpkin or two to save the seeds from. Pick big, robust specimens and mark them out while still on the vine with a ribbon or loose bit of string. Plants that will grow from these collected seeds will have already adapted to your soil and climate conditions, so you’ll have a head-start on success next season.

Leave the pumpkins on the vine until it has withered and died and the stem is brittle. This also helps your pumpkin develop its fullest favour and hardened skin for storing well. You will know it is ready when you can no longer dent the skin with your thumbnail! After harvesting, store the pumpkin for at least 3 weeks to make sure the seeds are fully mature. 

Top TIP! Squash, pumpkins and other cucurbits require good fertilisation/pollination from the male flowers to the females to form good strong seed. You can use a light paintbrush to pick up the pollen from the male’s anthers and paint the stigma of the females. Hand pollinating can also be useful if your garden doesn’t attract enough pollinators (bees and other flying insects). If your cucurbits are going yellow whilst still small and never making full size, hand pollinating may help.

Getting the seeds out

Removing the flesh from pumpkin seeds with water

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon, or your hand if that’s what you like! Put the seeds and flesh in a bowl of water and rub them together to remove the pulp. Viable seeds will usually sink to the bottom, but it can depend on the variety. Rinse away any pulp and floating seedlets (feed this to your worms!), then drain the seeds off in a strainer, swirling them around to ensure you’ve knocked off any remaining bit of flesh. If not, rinse and repeat! It’s important not to leave any stray bits of flesh on the seeds as they will inevitably go mouldy and cause the other seeds to go mildewy. This isn’t in itself a disaster, but can lower the germination rate and storability of your seeds.

Drying the Seeds

Drying pumpkin seeds on baking paper

Ok! So the flesh is all cleaned off and you have wettish seeds left in the strainer. Pat them dry with a bit of paper towel or clean tea towel or cloth, then lay them out on a flat surface on some grease-proof paper, or baking paper. Just something light enough to help with absorption but not stick to the seeds. Keep them separated from each other to assist the drying process. 

Put them in a cool, dry place with a bit of air flow. On top of the refrigerator (if there’s room) is ideal – in fact it’s a great place to dry any seeds – but make sure there is enough airspace and it doesn’t get too warm.

Check in after a week or so and flip the seeds over. This just helps make sure the seed coats are fully dry before you store them. After two weeks or so they should be ready to be stored, but you can leave them out longer if you’re not sure.

Storage

Dried pumpkin seeds

 Place seeds in a labelled container or envelope and store in a cool, dark, dry place. If you do use a jar with a lid on, then keep checking in every few days for the first week and give the jar a shake before opening it to ensure that there isn’t any moisture left that might cause mildewing. If it does smell a bit mouldy, or you do notice some mildew, empty the seeds out onto a paper towel and give them a rub before spreading them to dry again as before. This time leaving them on a clean paper towel may help with any further absorption required. Another week at the right temperature should see them right.

If you don’t have the time, space or patience for doing all this, visit my shop Seaford Seeds Vic at Local Seeds!

Happy Growing!

Jenny

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