I started out with simple annuals that were easily harvested and produced large quanities of seeds. Some of those early flower seeds that I saved were from marigolds, calendulas, nasturtiums and sweet peas. It through the trial and error of those early years that I learned how to save seeds properly and easily.
Aside from the benefit of cost, there are a number of other reasons to save seeds from your garden. When you harvest seeds from your own garden, you are going to, over time, develop healthier plants that are specialized to your unique micro-climate. In addition, todays garden center plants are often hybrids, which means that they cannot grow true from seeds. If we come to rely only on hybrids, this could lead to the loss of many of the worlds food crops. Not a good idea. Groups like Seed Trust Seed Savers Exchange and International Seed Saving Institute are working to save open pollinated, heirloom seeds and in turn working to save the diversity of our world food crops.
At home, saving seeds is easy. Here's how I do it and you can too!
First you'll want to be sure the seed you are planning to save is from an open pollinated plant. Hybrid plants will often produce seeds, but when planted these seeds will not produce a true clone of the parent plant and result in weak and unusable plants. ****Note: When purchasing seeds for your garden, you can check the seed packet information to see if your choice is an open pollinated variety.
Second, choose the best plant in the garden and allow it to go to seed. I know my first instinct is to harvest the best looking plant, but I have to resist this urge for the benefit of next years garden. If you harvest seed from the strongest plant, you will get strong seedlings. Conversely if you choose that weak small plant, you will wind up with weak and small seedlings next year.
This year I decided to save seeds from my absolutely best and heartiest Romaine Lettuce plant. I allowed this one plant to grow undisturbed and let it go to seed. Lettuce produces seeds similar to a dandelion (they have furry fuzz floaties on them), so as the seed began to mature I kept a close eye on it. Just as the majority of the flowers had the white fuzzies showing, I clipped the stem and brought the seed stalk indoors to complete the drying process. After 1 - 2 weeks of drying indoors it was ready for harvest.
Romaine Lettuce seeds ready for harvest
To harvest these seeds I simply pinched the floaty part of the flower and pulled it out from the seed pod, then I seperated the seed from the cottony part of the flower. That's it! How easy!
Romaine Lettuce seeds from 1 plant. There's enough to share!
Next simply place the seeds in an envelope or zippered sandwich bag and store in a cool dry spot until next spring. *****Note: don't seal up seeds until they are completely dry mildew will form and ruin your efforts.
Be sure to label your seeds well because many types of seeds do look similar.
I also harvested some seeds from a Spaghetti squash given to me by another island gardener. These I seperated from the stringy pulp and placed on a paper towel to dry for a week.
A paper towel helps to absorb excess moisture when drying
wet seeds and this helps to prevent molding
Be sure to note any important information on your bag such as
origination of the seeds
And growing information
I think once you try saving some of your own garden seeds, you will be hooked like me. Your wallet, your garden and the earth will all benefit!
There are seedsaver groups around the world. Check with your local gardening clubs if you want to participate in a seed exchange with other local gardeners.