Pumpkin seeds make a tasty snack, but why not try planting them instead?
Pumpkin seed saving is easy, so they are great for starting out for beginner gardeners looking to learn how to save pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkins are filled with seeds, so even if you just start out with a couple of seeds, that might be all you’ll need to grow jack o’ lanterns for every Halloween.
If you are already gardening organically, then you may already be using open pollinated seeds.
In this article, I will take you through how to effectively collect, save and store pumpkin seeds that will provide you with beautiful pumpkins every year.
- Related Article: How to Save Seeds Overview
Overview of Saving Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkins are great if you are new to seed saving. Simply collect the pulp and seeds from a ripe pumpkin instead of discarding it. They are very beginner friendly and you don’t have to do much prep other than drying them out properly.
Pumpkins, zucchini, and others in the squash family are popular vegetables when it comes to seed saving. Pumpkins and other hard shell squash are known as Winter Squash. Summer Squash have very thin skin, like the zucchini.
Pumpkins have male and female flowers, and are pollinated by insects. The more pollinators that land on the flowers, the better the fruit will be.
Grow your Pumpkins and make sure that pollinating insects have access to them or hand pollinate. Bees are often the most popular spreaders of pollen.
You can hand pollinate the flowers by removing all the petals from the male flower (the one with the large stamen and visible pollen) and gently rubbing the stamen into the center of the female flower. Then close the female flower and keep it closed with a rubber band.
How To Save Pumpkin Seeds
Step 1 – Harvest the Best Pumpkins for Their Seeds
If you’re using a pumpkin that you’ve brought, try to use a heritage variety as it will most likely be open pollinated.
Wait for your pumpkins to ripen before harvesting. They are ready when the pumpkin is fully colored and the rind is hard. If you are able to pierce the skin with your nail the pumpkin is not yet ready.
Choose the best pumpkins for their shape, color, and taste. If they’re open pollinated pumpkins, the future pumpkins will also be similar to the original parent plants.
Step 2 – Clean the Pumpkin Seeds
When you’ve decided on a favorite pumpkin you want to save seeds from, open it up.
Scoop out the seeds and pulp, and place them in a colander or sieve to rinse, and separate the seeds from the pulp.
Rinse the seeds under running water.
Step 3 – Choose the Pumpkin Seeds to Save
There will probably be plenty of extra pumpkin seeds, more than you need, so choose the biggest seeds to save.
Save three times as many seeds as the number of plants you intend to grow, as some may not germinate.
You may want to save more and give away the extra seeds or baby plants to friends and family.
Step 4 – Dry the Pumpkin Seeds
After the pumpkin seeds are rinsed and chosen, place them on a dry paper towel.
Space them out, so they don’t stick to each other. Leave them in a cool, dry spot for a week.
Step 5 – Store the Pumpkin Seeds
Now that the pumpkin seeds have been cleaned and dried, you can decide how to store them.
You can store your dry pumpkin seeds in a paper seed envelope, plastic bag, or plastic container.
Seeds need cool and dry conditions with a consistent temperature. It’s best to store them inside your house and away from any heat sources.
How Long Will My Pumpkin Seeds Last?
If you store them properly, pumpkin seeds will last up to 6 years. You can save a lot and plant a few seeds each year if you don’t want to seed save every year.
You can store them in paper or plastic bags, but if you’re storing in plastic make sure they are 100% dry to avoid condensation forming. Moisture will shorten the shelf life and ruin the seeds.
Can I Save and Grow Hybrid Pumpkin Seeds?
This is a highly contested area. The answer depends on who you ask, but the most commonly accepted line of thought is that it is preferable to only re-seed from open pollinated plants.
While some people have been able to grow successfully from the seeds of hybrids, others have found that hybrid seeds don’t germinate at all. Many serious organic gardeners will not use hybrids due to their inconsistency.
The problem with growing from hybrids is that the plants you grow will not be like the original pumpkin the seeds are from. This is because they are plants that are a combination of two different genetic lines.
These pumpkins have been selectively bred to enhance certain traits and then manually cross pollinated. You may find the pumpkins you grow are different from plant to plant, and revert back to the two different varieties.
The resulting seeds from these pumpkins may even be more inconsistent and continue to change through the generations.
Growing from hybrids is not an exact science. If you just want to try seed saving to see if you can reproduce the same kinds of pumpkins, then you can always try it to see what results you get.
However, if you want to get serious about seed saving and continue to produce quality plants with consistent results, then it’s best to stick to open pollinated.
Heirloom seeds are also open pollinated, pumpkin varieties get the label “heirloom” when it is more than 50 years old.
Final Thoughts on Pumpkin Seed Saving
Pumpkin seed saving is a rewarding pastime that also saves you money. You will become a better gardener over the years and in return, you will get delicious pumpkins every year.
You will learn to spot issues and pests early. You’ll gain practical experience growing your pumpkins that will help you achieve a great batch of pumpkins each time.
Open pollinated and heirloom pumpkin seeds are getting easier to obtain, as there has been a surge in interest due to a backlash to GMOs. For years, gardeners have been wary of saving seeds due to only having access to F1 hybrids, forcing them to buy pumpkin seeds each year.
The internet has been instrumental in helping gardeners obtain open pollinated seeds from which they can seed save. Most modern businesses want you to keep paying, but if you buy a bag of open pollinated pumpkin seeds, the chances are you won’t ever need to buy another.
For other guides on how to save seeds: