August and September are the earliest months to plant tomatoes – let’s look at how you can save your best tomatoes from your own seed for more planting this year, or to keep for next summer. Tomato juice has a growth inhibitor that affects germination so you need to get rid of that or the seeds won’t germinate. There are 2 methods – one for just a few tomatoes and one for many.
Paper Towel Method
Cut your best loved tomato in half and gently squeeze the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) as you rub it against a paper towel. Use 2 sheets together to get a good smearing. Don’t get all tough and strong about this as you don’t want too much of the juice coming out. You also want the seeds well-spaced apart. Place the seeded paper towel in a safe place for 3-5 days depending on weather. Once all this is dry you can either lay the towel in a seed raising tray with seed raising mix straight away or fold up and store in a glass jar or paper bag until next year.
This works if you want to save lots of seeds from many tomatoes. In a large glass jar squeeze out the juice and seed from tomatoes, try not to get too much flesh. Cover the jar with a piece of baking paper and a rubber band – this i to keep insects out or children’s fingers who may spill it all over your paper work or laptop. Leave it on the bench top for 4 days, take off the lid and you will see a disgusting, smelly, fermented mouldy goo.
Take the jar to the kitchen sink and add water and swill the mix around, wait 1 minute until the froth disappears and gently pour out the top layer. The seeds that float to the top will not have embryo’s so they can be flushed down the sink. Repeat this process until the water is clear and only seeds are left at the bottom. It is important to wait for the froth to settle.
Pour the seeds out onto a plate and leave somewhere safe to dry out for 3 days. You can either save for the following season or plant immediately.
Remember that your own plants will adapt better to your individual micro-climate and soil type over time, so saving your own seed makes sense.
Tomatoes are hungry feeders plant them out with mature compost, clay, wetting agent and a good quality fertiliser like Grow Safe Gardener.
– Sabrina Hahn, Horticulturalist & Master Gardener