Seed collection and saving has always been the way we ensured crops for the next year. Seed saving can also give you access to varieties that aren't commonly found in seed catalogs and even less often as nursery seedlings. Seed collection has revived many heirloom vegetable, herb and flower varieties, and given them a fresh life in modern times. It also guarantees continuing diversity in agriculture. You can plant the same unique tomatoes and flowers that your greatgrandparents enjoyed. It's also a great way to teach your kids about natural diversity and gardening!
Select the plants that you want to save seed from. This means choosing the hardiest, strongest, most disease-resistant, most delicious or prettiest plants in your garden. You can gradually improve the quality of your open-pollinated plants by choosing the best examples each season.
Choose a plant that flowers and then goes to seed. This includes herbs and leafy plants like lettuces, not just flowers. Make sure the plants flowers are pollinated by using cotton swabs to pollinate the flowers you've chosen. Enclose your pollinated flowers in paper sacks. Secure the sacks to the stem with string.
Choose plants that reproduce by ripening fruit. Allow some fruit on your selected plants to ripen completely, until they have mature seeds. The fruit will probably be spoiled or even rotten. Collect the seeds and prepare them for drying.
Place your moist seeds on cookie sheets or pans and cover with cheesecloth. Secure the cheesecloth to guard against wind and critters. Place the pans in a protected sunny spot and stir the seeds a couple of times a day. Allow them to dry for several days to remove all moisture.
Place your thoroughly dry seeds in marked containers. You can add cooled wood ashes up to 50% of the seed volume. This will help to protect against moisture, and will add nutrients to the soil when you plant the seeds.
Place your seeds in a container that will hold them all and keep them in the freezer until you are ready to plant next year.