Vegetable plants that are open pollinated are varieties of vegetable plants that produce viable seeds through wind pollination or pollination by bees. Many open pollinated vegetable plants are old heirloom varieties that are passed down through generations by collecting seed. When you collect seeds from the same varieties every year, you not only save money buying seed but the plants adapt to your unique garden ecosystem every time a generation of the plant is grown from collected seed. Most vegetable seed remains viable for at least one year if saved using the right preservation method.
Cultivate and grow desired vegetable plant species. Healthy plants make healthy seeds.
Allow beans, turnips, Swiss chard and all flowering vegetable plants that do not produce a wet fruit such as a tomato or squash to flower before collecting seed. Allow flower to dry, and seed and seed pods will become visible. Collect seeds once the seed heads or pods begin to change color to brown or gray. If rain threatens, cut seed head or dried flower head containing seeds and hang upside down with seed head in a paper bag until the seeds can be easily shaken from the stem.
Harvest overripe fruit that is beginning to rot or ferment from plants that produce a wet fruit such as squash, tomatoes, melons or peppers. The fermentation process kills fungus and disease pathogens and is a natural part of the seed production process. Allow fruit to completely rot or ferment in a bowl or tray left in an open area such as under a shade tree. The bad smell is part of the fermentation process.
Print names of seed and storage date on paper envelopes and prepare a box or storage area in a cool, dry location. Vegetable seeds do not need a chilling period and should not be allowed to freeze.
Collect seeds from flower heads and dried fruit, cleaning as much dried fruit as possible from the seeds that went through the fermentation process, and place in paper envelopes for storage. Seeds must be completely dry before storage. You don't need to seal the envelopes. Leave them open to ensure they remain dry if they are stored in a way they cannot spill.