By: Teo Spengler
Collecting seeds from garden fruits and vegetables can be thrifty, creative, and fun for a gardener. Saving melon seeds from this year’s crop to plant in next year’s garden requires planning and attention to detail. Read on for tips about collecting seeds from melons.
Melons are members of the cucumber family, and they are open pollinated by wind or insects. This means that melons cross-pollinate with others in their family. Before you start saving melon seeds, be sure that the melon species you want to propagate are not planted within a half mile of other types of melons.
Melon seeds grow inside the fleshy fruit. Wait until the fruits are fully ripe and separated from the vine before collecting seeds from melons. In cantaloupe, for example, look for thick netting and a pungent melon smell from the stem end.
To start saving melon seeds, cut open the fruit lengthwise and scoop out the seed masses into a jar. Add a little warm water and allow the mixture to sit for two to four days, stirring daily.
As the melon seeds sit in water, they ferment. During this process, the good seeds sink to the bottom of the jar while the detritus floats to the top. To collect seeds from melons, pour off the water containing the pulp and bad seeds. Now let’s learn how to preserve melon seeds for future planting.
Melon seed harvesting is a waste of your time unless you learn how to preserve melon seeds until planting time. Drying the seeds thoroughly is the key. After the soaking process, put the good seeds in a strainer and wash them clean.
Spread the good seeds out on a paper towel or a screen. Allow them to dry for several days. Storing melon seeds that are not completely dry results in moldy seeds.
Once the seeds are very dry, place them in a clean, dry glass jar. Write the seed variety and the date on a label and tape it to the jar. Put the jar in the freezer for two days, and then move to the refrigerator.
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Whether you’ve purchased a tasty and favorite seeded watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) from your local market or grown it from purchased seeds, it’s possible to save the melon’s seeds to grow the next season. This not only saves you some cash but also makes a fun project to help get the kids enthused about growing things. Saving watermelon seeds is easy and the steps are basic, and we give you all the tips for seed-saving success.
Watermelons are a warm-season crop that can takes months to achieve the ripe stage where the fruits are ready for harvesting. Depending on the cultivar, watermelons can be ready for picking in around 60 days, or take over 100.
Check the seed packet where it lists “days to harvest” to get an approximate idea of when you can expect your particular watermelon to ripen. Saving seeds from a ripe watermelon offers the best germination success.
Although the days to harvest gives a good idea of when you can expect to pick a ripe melon, there are other signs that signify your watermelon is ripe and ready for picking. Remember, once harvested, an unripe watermelon won’t continue to ripen any further. Once you determine the watermelon has achieved the prime stage of ripeness, simply cut the melon off the vine.
Signs a watermelon is ready for harvesting include:
Expert Gardener Tips: Although an old wives tale says you can determine if a watermelon is ripe by “thumping” it, don’t rely on this test or you can end up disappointed. Some varieties of watermelons won’t have a dull thud and you can end up with an overripe and mushy melon.
Of course, the first step in saving watermelon seeds is cutting open the melon, sinking your teeth into the sweet and juicy flesh and enjoying a bit of summer heaven. Nothing is quite as refreshing on a hot summer day like biting into a slice of cold, thirst-quenching watermelon.
While you are enjoying your summer treat, simply spit the seeds onto a napkin or cup. Once you finish your succulent treat, you then can prepare the seeds for saving.
Expert Gardener Tip: Properly stored watermelon seeds should remain viable for approximately four years. The most important thing when it comes to saving watermelon seeds is keeping them dry and cool.
Isolate cantaloupe varieties in the garden to prevent cross-pollination when planting cantaloupe seeds from fruit. Allow a minimum of one-half mile between plant varieties to prevent cross-pollination by insects and to ensure viable seeds. Unless you live on sprawling acreage, this will restrict you to only one type of cantaloupe in your garden. If you have neighbors who also grow cantaloupes, coordinate with them so you both grow the same type of cantaloupe.
If planted too close to another cantaloupe variety, the heirloom plant can cross-pollinate, leading to an imperfect and possibly sterile genetic line. Cross-pollination is usually unapparent until you plant the seeds the following year.
What if you’ve got a large seed collection, or are looking to swap out varieties every other year or so? Maybe you’re being proactive and saving seed for survival purposes? The best way to store seeds long term is to create the perfect conditions for your seeds to dwell in.
The secret is in two words: cool and dry.
Ideally, there should be no moisture around your seeds. The temperature should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, but should not drop into sub-freezing temperatures as that kills some forms of plant embryo. It should be dark or dim, and it should be pest and critter free.
I recommend using a cold storage option like the NewAir AB-850 Beverage Cooler for your seed storage. It’s compact and can be tucked into small spaces easily, and has full temperature control so you can set it to your preferred chill level. Use promo code KEVIN20 for 20% off!
While you can simply hide seeds in the back of your refrigerator, you’re probably going to want to keep your seeds cooler than your food is. Many people store seeds at or around 35-40 degrees, and the lower end of that scale may cause frost damage to your food.
Having a separate, temperature-controlled location for your seeds is a really good idea. Not only can you optimize for best long-term seed storage, but you won’t be letting the cold out multiple times a day.
A cooler environment will cause moisture to condense more readily. You will need to have a fully sealed container to keep that moisture out. Alternately, you can add moisture absorbing packets or fully dried rice grains to your storage box to keep humidity at bay.
Plastic bags are not the enemy in this type of storage, but you have to be extremely careful that no moisture is trapped inside the bag. Press out all air if possible and make sure it’s completely closed so moisture doesn’t get inside.
Maintain the temperature at your optimal range. It’s fine if you have to open your cooler every so often to put in or remove seeds, but if there’s too much fluctuation, it can become a problem. I recommend aiming for 35-40 degrees as the ideal temperature.
If you can, put your seeds into an opaque packet or inside an opaque box. This adds another layer of light prevention, although the temperature and humidity are the key factors in cold storage like this.
When removing your seeds from cold storage, take the box or container they’re in out and do not immediately open it. Instead, set the container somewhere and walk away until it has reached ambient room temperature.
Rapid temperature changes won’t shock your seeds, but a quick temp change can cause moisture to condense inside your container, and it can be difficult to remove before you put your seeds away again. Letting it warm up naturally avoids this issue.
For this reason, I recommend you organize your seeds in boxes based on the planting season. After all, if you to get ready to plant in February, there’s no point in starting seeds slated for July or August, and they can continue to stay stored away.
Winter melons are annual plants, which means you have to plant it every year to get new crops.
The name “winter melon” may mislead many gardeners who try to grow this plant for the first time. It was named this way because you can store it for a long time after harvesting and because we can enjoy it even during winter.
When I first heard about winter melons, I also thought that this is some kind of plant that grows during the winter.
So if you are reading this article expecting to find a melon variety which grows in the winter, sorry to disappoint you but you won’t find it here. Planting winter melons before or during the winter would be just a waste of time since the first frost would rapidly kill it.
Leave at least one cantaloupe on the vine until it reaches maturity, as fully ripe cantaloupes have fully developed seeds. Common signs of ripeness include thick netting, yellow or yellow-gray skin beneath the netting, a strong cantaloupe smell from the stem end and complete separation from the vine.
The University of California recommends harvesting cantaloupes at "full slip," which is when a crack forms in a circle around the stem. Once this happens, the fruit will be removable without much effort. Do not allow the fruit to over-ripen, when the rind becomes soft or rotten, or saving the cantaloupe seeds will be difficult.