There’s nothing better than growing fresh pumpkins to harvest in the fall, but saving the pumpkin seeds for planting next year is a fulfilling, thrifty way to take advantage of your produce and keep the heirloom line running.
All you need to do is extract the seeds, clean them, and store them, and you’ll have fresh squash for years to come.
Our tiny local shop has been doing a fine job of keeping our community well-stocked during isolation. I’m not just grateful for them, but for fellow community members too. Whilst in the shop yesterday, a local man had dropped off a heap of pumpkins for the shop to give away for free.
There’s no better opportunity to show how to save pumpkin seeds for planting next year!
Locally grown pumpkin vines are the best for saving pumpkin seeds. You know they grow well in your local area and they are most likely grown with fewer chemicals than the store-bought ones.
You can still save pumpkin seeds from shop-bought pumpkins too, however, and why not! It doesn’t take much time at all and each pumpkin can render as many as 200 seeds. That’s lots of pumpkin vines!
I took a butternut pumpkin for some yummy pumpkin soup and to use for my seed preservation demonstration. My girls love pumpkin soup, and I do, too! But do you know what else I love? Using the seeds from organic, local produce to grow my own garden!
Table of contents
- How to Save Pumpkin Seeds for Planting
- How to Store Pumpkin Seeds for Planting Next Year
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Save Pumpkin Seeds for Planting
So then, how do you save pumpkin seeds for planting next year? Let’s go through the steps together and get the job done!
1. Cut Your Pumpkin
Let’s start by cutting the pumpkin in half longways.
Just cut it straight through the middle. You will need some muscle power to do this. I find that using a serrated knife helps carve through the dense fruit, especially if you use a rocking motion to work around it.
Once open, we can see all those beautiful pumpkin seeds.
2. Scoop Out the Seeds
The next step is to cut the seeds out.
I like to use a metal soup spoon for this. My soup spoons are pretty crappy soup spoons because the edges are sharp, and they are just that little bit too big to fit in your mouth. No one likes to use them.
They’re perfect for getting the seeds out of a pumpkin. The sharp edge slices through and whips under. This particular pumpkin was a breeze. Some pumpkins put up more of a fight, so you may need more impressive tools.
When all else fails, cut the pumpkin in half again (so it’s in quarters). Then, you can cut the seeds out that way. I avoid doing that because I like to roast the pumpkin for pumpkin soup. They roast so beautifully with half an onion in the hole!
Cut right around the seed ball like this:
You can now pop the whole center out like this:
The seeds don’t look great yet, but they will, just wait! The next thing is….how to clean pumpkin seeds!
3. Clean the Pumpkin Seeds
Storing pumpkin seeds with the pulp attached is not a good idea. The less pulp, the better for storing them. The cleaner and drier your pumpkin seeds are, the better they will save for planting next year. Stored properly, they can last a few years!
4. Wash the Seeds In a Colander
Drop the pumpkin seeds in a colander. You don’t want a colander with small holes for this job, and definitely not a sieve.
Pumpkin seeds are quite big and the pulp is coarse. I’ve tried it in a sieve before and it is a nightmare. Bigger holes, easier to clean pumpkin seeds! My colander is not perfect for this, it doesn’t have enough holes for my liking. It does the job, though.
Try and rub the pulp gently to remove as many seeds as possible whilst pulling away as much of the pulp as possible.
Put the pulp somewhere else, I usually save it for the chickens. I don’t bother with the tough seeds. You know, the ones that don’t want to become pumpkin vines and burrow themselves right in the pulp, clinging onto the slimy, stringy stuff.
Oh well. If you don’t want to become a new plant, so be it.
Still, my level of determination depends on the fruit I’m getting seeds from. If it’s a lime, for example, I’ll jump through many hoops to get each seed out. You might only get 3 seeds per fruit.
Pumpkin is a different story. You can get as many as 200 seeds from 1 pumpkin, so those couple of stubborn seeds become chicken food instead.
Under running water, rub the seeds gently between your fingers. You’ll feel the pulp separate from the seeds. Keep going until the seeds are nice and clean. You’ll know they’re clean enough when they aren’t slimy and don’t have an orange tint.
Pick the bigger pieces of pulp out with your fingers, and the smaller pieces will slither through the holes in your colander.
5. Dry the Seeds
After cleaning, drain the seeds and swish them to remove as much water as possible. Time to drop the whole lot onto a paper towel for the first dry. Spread the seeds out evenly to keep water from pooling between them.
Sometimes, the pulp just won’t separate and you’ll find it impossible to clean pumpkin seeds. In this case, use the “pulp fermentation” seed cleaning method. I have a dedicated article on saving seeds that describes the process of saving and storing seeds in detail. Have a read!
Leave your pumpkin seeds on the paper towel until they are dry. For me, this only took one night.
6. Separate and Clean the Seeds
Drying the seeds might take a bit longer if you’re in a colder climate. Once they are dry, separate any pumpkin seeds that are stuck together.
The ones that stick together have not dried properly, and they might need another night to dehydrate on a paper towel. Pick the leftover pulp pieces off, too.
7. Plant Immediately or Store Them for Next Year
I’m grabbing a handful to plant straight into the garden!
Immediate planting is also a great way to use the seeds that didn’t quite dry properly since you’ll just be watering them again, anyway.
It’s a great season to plant pumpkins here, so we don’t have to save all our pumpkin seeds for planting next year!
I’ll write a separate article on how to plant pumpkin seeds, but you get the drift here. Dig a small hole, and drop your pumpkin seeds in. Cover them lightly, then water well.
Keep them moist and wait for a new pumpkin vine to say, “Hello! I’m ready to grow lots of pumpkins! For pretty much no money!”
If you need some tools to get started with your seed-saving journey, I must say that I love Bootstrap Farmer for seed-raising supplies. They have a huge range of trays, pots, greenhouse, kits… everything you need really. Pay them a visit!
You can also go rogue. I love going rogue! Nothing better than a plant that chooses where to grow, and it fits right in with my food forest philosophy.
This pumpkin below sprouted from last year’s saved seed. I had a heap of seeds left over so the kids and I walked around the garden, merrily throwing pumpkin seeds around. This fella decided to grow right at the front gate and it’s growing its first pumpkin smack-bang on top of the fence.
This variety grows big pumpkins, so time will tell if it has enough support to handle the pumpkin’s weight! I might have to come in with some reinforcements. Either way, I think that the seed-tossing experiment was a total success.
How to Store Pumpkin Seeds for Planting Next Year
If you prefer to save your seeds for later, doing so is very simple. It just takes some seeds, a pen or marker, and a paper bag or other moisture-wicking container.
To store your seeds, put your cleaned pumpkin seeds in a paper bag so they can breathe. Paper will also allow any leftover moisture to escape. You can leave the seeds in paper bags or a coffee filter and store them in a seed-saving envelope, cardboard box, or cotton cloth.
I’ve also used scrap paper and cardboard from my recycling stash and staples to make some DIY seed packets, which has worked very well.
Write on the packaging which seeds are inside and the date. I very elegantly did this with a nice, thick blue permanent marker…
How to Keep Pests Away From Your Pumpkin Seeds
The final step for storing pumpkin seeds is ensuring nothing eats them.
Little critters like mice will love your pumpkin seeds. They’ll make sure you won’t have pumpkin seeds for planting next year! So, be sure to keep your seeds in a pest-proof container.
If you want to learn more about some solutions I’ve come up with, you might want to read our article about mouse-proof storage solutions!
Again, I’m pretty rogue here too. I have a small shelf hanging in my planting space; all my seeds just sit there. I don’t really provide much else, but I haven’t had a reason to.
That storage solution mostly works OK, and mice and the like don’t seem to be able to get up there.
I sometimes get weevils and insects, so I like to add dried herb leaves to the seed packets and on the shelves when that happens. Bay, eucalyptus, and rosemary are a good start.
I always have some diatomaceous earth (I get mine on Amazon) spread around the shelves, too. It’s a fantastic, organic, all-purpose pest control agent that’ll keep almost any bug away.
For rodents and bigger predators, store your pumpkin seeds in containers. Plastic, tin, or glass work well, or you can buy special seed-saving containers for this purpose.
I have to add, since this article was first published, I had my entire seed storage rampaged. Disaster! I now use an old fridge. Fridges are fantastic at keeping pests out – and who doesn’t have a broken fridge lying around!
Just watch for mold in a fridge, they’re susceptible to it. Add a moisture absorber or clean it regularly with clove oil. Clove oil is the bomb for wiping out mold!
Add silica crystals if moisture is a problem or you live in a humid climate. Put them in with the seeds and they will take care of any excess moisture. We don’t want them germinating before being able to plant them next year. It also prevents mold, which is the biggest threat to your pumpkin seeds.
Saved pumpkin seeds are best planted as soon as possible. However, if you cleaned them properly, they can last in storage for many years.
Finally, in this journey of how to save pumpkin seeds for planting next year, here’s a pumpkin vine I prepared earlier…
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know how to preserve and save pumpkin seeds for a never-ending harvest, let me address some of the most common questions people often ask me about the process.
Pumpkin seeds can be stored for many years before planting as long as you keep them in a cool, dark, and dry spot. Mildew, mold, and pests are your worst enemies when saving pumpkin seeds, so keep them locked away in a pest-proof container with silica gel.
You know that pumpkin seeds are viable if they sink when you soak them in water for around 10 to 15 minutes. Those seeds that float are infertile and can go into your compost heap.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of how to clean, store, and save pumpkin seeds for next year. Let me know how the seed-saving is going for you, any tips you’d like to share with us, and please show us your resulting pumpkin vine!