How to Save & Sow Tomato Seeds

Tips on how to easily save tomato seeds on paper towels and then replant them the following year.
This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. Thank you for your continued support of Lovely Greens!

How to save tomato seeds and grow them

Many people choose to grow tomatoes from small plants purchased inexpensively at the local garden center. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so and it makes growing tomatoes all the more easier for the home producer. However, if you choose to go this route you’ll likely be limited to growing just a few of the most popular commercial strains instead of being able to choose from the hundreds (maybe thousands) of varieties available.

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your continued support of this site!
Tips on how to easily save tomato seeds on paper towels and then replant them the following year
You’ll have much more choice in tomatoes if you grow from seed

Sow Greenhouse Tomatoes in mid-February

Growing tomatoes from seed isn’t difficult but you do need to start them early, especially if you live in cool-to-temperate regions. On the Isle of Man it’s practically impossible to grow them outdoors but nurturing them in greenhouses, polytunnels, and warm windows is both popular and worthwhile. Nothing beats the taste of a sweet and juicy home-grown tomato! Also, growing ‘from scratch’ is a lovely way to see the whole process of seed transforming into plant and then flowers developing into fruit.

For me, growing tomatoes begins in mid-February when I sow the seeds  for my greenhouse grown plants. If you sow the same time as I do you be picking your first crop weeks before anyone else and will also get a bit of a gardening fix before the real season of sowing begins. If you’re in the same climate as I am but will be planting into unheated greenhouses, wait just a month or two later though. If you rush things along then by the time the plants are mature, it might still be too cold for you to plant them out.

Tips on how to easily save tomato seeds on paper towels and then replant them the following year

Tomato seeds need light and warmth to grow

To start your seeds this early you’ll need to do it in a warm place with plenty of light. Bottom heat is preferable and if you don’t have a propagator then setting the tray of seeds near a radiator works well too – just make sure it isn’t too hot and that the compost stays moist. Popping the tray into a clear plastic bag also helps in both retaining heat and moisture. Use multipurpose or seed-starting compost and the rule of thumb in sowing is to cover the seeds with soil twice the depth of the seed itself. So if the seed is 3mm in length (the size of a tomato seed) then cover it with 6mm of soil. Tomato seeds germinate best at around 70-80°F and in this temperature you can expect to see green shoots within 6-8 days.

The seeds you start with can come from a packet but it’s always fun to save a few from the last year and grow them on again. If you grow more than one variety in the same area the seeds might not grow true to their original (due to cross pollination) but who knows, you could end up with a fantastic new variety.

Tips on how to easily save tomato seeds on paper towels and then replant them the following year

Save Tomato seeds on paper towels

For me, the easiest way to save tomato seeds is to scrape them out of the fruit and onto a paper towel but try to spread them out a bit if you can. Let the seeds dry completely then fold the paper up and store it in an envelope with your notes written on the front. Saving tomato seeds in this way also makes them easy to share among friends – in fact the seeds in this post are from a blogger friend who sent me some of his ‘Late Plum’ variety last year. Seed swapping penpals are the best!
Once dried and saved, you can plant the whole piece of paper in compost and the plants will grow just fine without having to be scraped off. The paper will eventually degrade into the soil but even if there’s some left when it comes time to prick out your seedlings, it will tear away easily.
Tips on how to easily save tomato seeds on paper towels and then replant them the following year.

Use scissors to cut off a piece of the seeded paper towel

When the time comes to start your seeds off use a pair of scissors and cut a square off your paper towel. This way you can save some of the seeds for another time, which is a good idea in case you have a real winner of a variety and want to grow it again. It’s amazing to think that when stored at room temperature, tomato seeds can still be highly viable even after ten to fifteen years.

Spreading your seeds out when you dry them helps in the growing stage since it staggers the space between seedlings. But if they grow in thickly, don’t worry, they can be thinned out without too much fuss – see my post on how to do it at this link. You’ll want to transplant your seedlings into individual modules when two true leaves have appeared.

Tips on how to easily save tomato seeds on paper towels and then replant them the following year.

Subscribe to the Lovely Greens Newsletter here.
Find Lovely Greens also on: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest
Browse Lovely Greens handmade soap and beauty products here.

15 Discussion to this post

  1. Hey I recognize those seeds! I hope you get them to produce this year, I will be starting mine much later than you and some actually come up in the garden by themselves. We have mud here now so it will be a long wait until plowing again.

  2. CJ says:

    Some great tips Tanya, thank you. It's almost time to start sowing! Seed saving is something I'm hoping to do this year, provided I get some good tomatoes.

  3. You all right save our own seeds is much cheaper and more interesting. Thanks for the tips.

  4. I am DETERMINED to have more success with tomatoes this year. I was going to experiment with a few different ways. Some will stay contiunally in the greenhouse in grow bags. Some will come outside in pots and some will be outside straight in the ground and I will see which do best.

  5. There was a time when i did this Tanya, but the wind blew all the glass out of our greenhouse in a storm and we have never replaced it. We are too far North to grow them outside, so we don't grow them any more – but I have yet to find a tasty shop bought one.

  6. I have lots of varieties to sow this year but my favourites from last year were Black cherry and Cuor de Bue , I use a polytunnel for 10 plants but this year have been gifted sub arctic plenty and first in the field to try outdoors. great tip about the kitchen roll 🙂

  7. No summer is complete without tomatoes! Thank you for the tips! I grow in a cooler climate and am considering a heated growing venue of some type. Greenhouse? Conservatory? Love the idea of tending my tomatoes in that type of environment.

    • lovelygreens says:

      You can’t go wrong with growing tomatoes someplace warm! I WISH I could grow them outdoors here on the island but it really just isn’t possible. Greenhouses and conservatories all the way 🙂

  8. Bren Haas says:

    Thank you for sharing this … I love growing tomatoes in my home garden. Growing from seed is super easy and fun to do for all ages. I love how you include a seed saving link at the end of the post. See you in the garden!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *