Its July and vacation time and the weather is perfect. The garden is planted and tended regularly and we snap our fingers and suddenly its January and we ask ourselves where summer and our garden went. Seed harvesting and saving has been occurring in agriculatural societies for thousands of years. For many, summer and their garden went inside with them for the winter. Those are the people that are seed savers. Like the fruits and veggies they grow and take from their garden every cycle, they also harvest their seeds.
The practice of saving seeds is actually very easy and rewarding but like many other things in life, timing is everything. The gardener must go to the seeds when the seeds are ready so attention must be paid to the life cycles of the different plants.
Whatever the seed that you’re saving, be sure its dried well before storing it. The seeds can be stored in sealed envelopes, plastic bags or jars. Beans and peas like a little air though. Be sure to label them immediately as you probably won’t remember what seed is in what envelope, bag or jar. Saved seeds can last for many years but fresher seeds are a preference, so along with labeling, you’ll want to write down the month and year that you saved them.
Beans, peas and carrot seeds can also be dried. Those should be allowed to dry as long as possible on the plant before harvesting. After taking the seeds, spread them in a dry and well-ventilated place. After a few days the chaff can be removed by hand. Much of it can be blown away first.
For melons, squash and cucumbers, scoop out the fruits and put the guts in a bucket of water or a large jar. If mold forms, don’t worry about it. Don’t worry if it gets a little stinky either. After 3-4 days, the good seeds sink to the bottom and everything else stays at the top. Pour the waste off and place the sunken seeds on a screen, aluminum foil or pie pan in a cool dry place to let them dry.
For tomatoes, don’t save seeds from tomatoes that you bought at the grocery store. Use seeds that you received from a fellow gardener or from plants that you grew youself. Genetics are important so only save those seeds from the best plants. If you’re new to gardening, tomato seeds can be found on the internet. Always use seeds from tomatoes that have ripened as much as possible on the vine. There’s a process and art to saving tomato seeds and there are many websites with photos that will walk you through the process.
Seeds should always be stored in cool, dry conditions but the drying conditions can be enhanced with some sun. During the drying process, they should be spread and turned. Seed harvesting can also be done with flowers.
There are nationwide seed saving and trading clubs along with periodicals and websites. Any local gardening clubs might also have information for you.