At this time of year, you’re probably getting ready to plant your garden and you’re buying seeds. Whether its flowers or vegetables, you can help your garden flourish from year to year AND save money by saving seeds. It takes a little time but it’s actually a very simple process.
Choosing your seed producers
The first step is choosing which seeds to harvest. As a rule, you want to take seeds from the nicest specimens from your garden. The plants that produced the best will most often be your best bet for next year’s garden. Only save seeds from heirloom, self-pollinated, or openly pollinated plants. (Hybrids produce seeds, but they will give you a plant with characteristics of both parents, and you may not want that.)
When to harvest
There is a specific time that is optimal for harvesting seeds. For flowers, you should cut flower heads when their seed pods have dried out or shortly before. Hang the heads upside down in a paper bag to dry. Once they are dry, remove the seeds. Separate them as much as possible from chaff and other plant material.
For fruits and vegetables, seeds should be harvested once the fruit has become fully ripe or overripe. Thoroughly wash them before drying. For podded vegetables such as beans and peas, let the seeds dry in their pods on the plants before you gather them.
Avoiding direct sunlight, dry your seeds on a ceramic or glass plate. Make sure they are completely dry before storing them, otherwise they will develop mold. Store dried seeds in paper envelopes. Make sure to label them!
Many seeds can remain viable for several years after being harvested. Put your envelopes in an airtight container and store the container in a cool, dark, and dry location. It’s a good idea to add a packet of desiccant to absorb moisture. Save one from a pill bottle.
When someone compliments your tomatoes, give them some of your seeds as a gift. Many veteran gardeners also trade seeds. Saving seeds allows you to grow the varieties of fruits, vegetables and flowers that you love, saving your most beautiful, best tasting and hardiest specimens for the next year