So you’ve had a bumper crop of pumpkins of some different varieties in your garden this year, and you think you’d like to have some of the same pumpkins growing next year. This leaves you wondering how to save pumpkin seeds for next season- is it hard, or does it take a lot of time?
To save pumpkin seeds for planting, remove the seeds from the pumpkin, clean the pulp off and allow to dry fully. Store seeds in a dry, cool location until planting time next spring. Pumpkin seeds are large and easy to handle, and they don’t require any complicated steps to prepare for storage, making them one of the easiest garden seeds to save.
In this article, you’ll learn how to save pumpkin seeds for the greatest success in planting your future pumpkin plants. The process is pretty simple, and we’ll cover each step in detail. You’ll also find out how to store the pumpkin seeds you collect for the best chances of growth next year. And if you’ve got kids who love to help, this can be a fantastic family project!
Let’s jump in!
Selecting a Pumpkin to Save Seeds From
Picking the right pumpkin to harvest seeds for saving is an essential first step. Each pumpkin has unique characteristics that get passed on to the next generation through its seeds. Choosing wisely now boosts your chances for bigger, more robust pumpkins next year.
How to Choose a Healthy Pumpkin
Daniel Akin, writer/editor at Theyardable, shares that ensuring your pumpkin has fully ripened is your first order of business.
“When the pumpkin is at least 20 days past harvest, then is the best time to save the seeds. It’s a sure bet that the fruit is at least that old if you bought it from a market or store. Some of the indicators of ripeness for homegrown types include a change in color or a browning stem, along with a rind that is impossible to pierce with a fingernail.”
According to the University of Illinois Extension, your best bet is to harvest seeds from the heftiest pumpkin that comes from your own or someone else’s home garden. Select the healthiest pumpkin from the most vigorous plant for the highest chances of replicating those strong genes next year.
Pass over any that have issues like these:
- Mottled or spotted skin
- Soft or rotten spots
- Small size
- Bad or weak flavor
- Plants that had diseases or pest problems
- Misshapen fruits
If one pumpkin variety grew particularly well, consider saving seeds from that- it’s already demonstrated that it thrives in your local climate.
Look for pumpkins with deep, even color that’s appropriate for the variety, and with healthy, smooth skin. If you’re going for a cooking/baking pumpkin, save seeds from a fruit with a good, strong flavor. And shape matters too- pick the roundest pumpkin you can. Their size and shape can indicate disease and insect resistance, and that’s a good thing.
Hybrid vs Heirloom: Why It Makes a Difference
In general, you stand much better chances of successfully growing a crop from last year’s seed if you save the seeds from open-pollinated plants, often referred to as “heirloom” plants.
According to the Master Gardeners at the University of California, what makes a plant an heirloom is not always totally agreed upon. But for many people, an heirloom is a plant that has been in its current form since at least WWII and is open-pollinated (pollinated through natural means like insects or the breeze). Heirlooms are not modern hybrids, and when you save heirloom seeds, the same results can typically be expected every time, every year.
Hybrid refers to intentional cross-pollination at the hands of human plant breeders. When you save hybrid seeds, you lose genetic stability, and results will vary and may not even be good.
Pumpkins can be cross-pollinated from plants in the same Cucurbita family, which includes pumpkins, melons, cucumber and squash. Cross-pollination won’t affect pumpkin growth in the current year, but any seeds saved probably wouldn’t produce the same quality.
It’s a safe bet that any pumpkins you buy from a store or a pumpkin patch are hybrids unless they are specifically marked as heirlooms. You can still save the seeds from hybrid plants, but there’s no telling what you may end up growing next year.
Materials Needed to Save Pumpkin Seeds
When you’re getting ready to save pumpkin seeds for planting, you’ll need the following materials:
- Sharp knife
- Large spoon
- Fine mesh strainer or large bowl
- Wax paper or parchment paper
- Baking sheet
How to Save Pumpkin Seeds for Planting
Now for the fun stuff! We’re going to go over all of the steps for how to save pumpkin seeds for planting.
1. Remove the Seeds from the Pumpkin
Cut open the pumpkin from the top using your sharp knife. Use the large metal spoon and/or your hands to scrape out the pulp and seeds from the pumpkin.
This is definitely a messy task, so choose a spot that’s easy to clean or cover your surface with a towel or old sheet.
2. Rinse the Seeds and Separate Them from the Pulp
Place the pumpkin pulp and seeds into the fine mesh strainer, and place the strainer in the sink. Run some cold water over the pulp to start rinsing the seeds and loosening the pulp. Another method is to place your seeds in a bowl of water to soak and start the pulp loosening process.
Then use your fingers to rub the pulp off of the seeds under running water or in the bowl of water, getting as much of the pulp off as you can. This will prevent the seeds from getting moldy and help speed up the drying process.
3. Pat the Seeds Dry
Drain the water from the seeds and spread them out on a towel or paper towel. Pat the seeds completely dry, or use your hair dryer on the lowest setting to speed up the drying process- just don’t blow your pumpkin seeds away!
4. Spread the Seeds Out to Dry
Lay out the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on parchment paper or a paper bag, leaving plenty of space between the seeds to allow for good airflow. Don’t use a paper towel for setting out your pumpkin seeds- they’ll just stick and be hard to get loose later on.
Place your tray in an area that gets plenty of ventilation but is out of your way. Some people find the top of a refrigerator is a good spot, and the top of my clothes dryer in the laundry room is my go-to spot.
5. Stir the Seeds and Allow to Dry Fully
Your seeds need to get fully dry on both sides, so stir them around and turn them over every day or two to assist in the drying process. Look for any seeds that show signs of mold or mildew- throw these out right away.
After about a month the pumpkin seeds should be fully dry and ready for storage for the next year (or later). Do a final sort-through, looking for discolored or misshapen seeds. If you find any, throw them away.
How to Store Pumpkin Seeds
Your seeds are nice and dry, and you want them to stay that way until you’re ready to plant them.
Place the seeds in a seed envelope with a label. You can also use a small brown paper bag or make your own envelope from a sheet of paper. This video from Project Diaries shows a good demonstration and also includes a printable template:
Whatever envelope you choose, write the collection date on the label and the type of seed so you’ll know how long they’ve been in storage.
Store your seeds in a cool, dry area. Seed Savers Exchange advises a location that is dry and stays relatively consistent in temperature. A dim pantry or closet is a good spot, as is your basement if it’s not humid. For seeds that I plan on saving for at least a few months, I place them in my refrigerator.
Your seeds are now ready to just rest and await their next stage of life at spring planting time!
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Save Pumpkin Seeds for Planting
Pumpkins are a great crop to grow in the home garden, and there are so many uses for them from decorating to cooking. Saving pumpkin seeds for the next year can be a slightly messy process, but it’s fun and very rewarding to grow your own pumpkins from the seeds you’ve collected.
We want to hear from you! Do you have any more questions about saving pumpkin seeds? Have you tried it before, and what was your experience like? The best way to learn is in a community, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!