Seed Saving Tips
How to properly harvest and save seeds from your own garden
Collecting and saving seeds is a fun way to share with friends. It's an easy way to save money as you won't need to buy seed for next year or you can start new plants from seed, sell them or keep them for yourself. It's also a great way to meet new people when you participate in seed swaps.
This article will basically go into how to physically save seed and store them for next year. I will not be going into the best plants to save seed from or the differences between open pollinated plants and hybrids (hybrids will not come true from seed). The best site I have ever found for seed saving and germinating seeds is a UK based site, simply called The Seed Site. If you are serious about collecting all kinds of seeds, I urge you to check them out.
I will also not be going into specifics with each type of plant as the method is basically the same. Though seeds look different and some have a lot of dried material mixed in with the seeds, the methods are basically the same for collecting. I found a cute little site that talks about how to save seeds for each type of vegetable. It's called the International Seed Saving Institute.
In order to be able to collect seeds from a plant, it must first flower and then be pollinated. After the flower fades, the seeds must then ripen, naturally on the plant and become mature before they will be viable. You will know the seeds are mature when the flower head that is left behind has completely dried up. This could take a couple of weeks, maybe longer, depending on the type of plant you are collecting seeds from.
Once a plant begins to set seed, that signals the plant to stop producing flowers, so you will want to deadhead your plants until late summer so that you will continue to have flowers for the majority of the summer. This is especially true for annuals, although some perennials will re-bloom later if dead headed early on, but for the most part, perennials are one time bloomers, though their bloom time may span over many days to several weeks.
Once you have decided that you want to save seed from a certain plant, pick the healthiest plant from the bunch and choose a plant with a strong root system. Forming seed, takes a lot out of a plant, so it's important to choose the healthiest ones, especially when you are dealing with perennials. It's also important to save seed from plants with characteristics that you particularly like, or plants that don't have disease or pest problems. This ensures that the seeds you have collected are the healthiest they can be and will contain the best genes that plant can offer. For example: I planted a bunch of marigolds, all the same variety, but one particular plant seemed to grow and thrive far above the rest. That is the plant I would want to save seed from in the hopes they will germinate and be as good as this one was.