Plants have a variety of types of seeds: some tumble out onto the ground; some forcibly eject their seeds; others just blow away in the wind; and some are enclosed in the fleshy pulp of the fruit. Different types of seeds must be gathered by different methods. By saving seeds from the best specimens of your crops, you can develop productive new plants that are well adapted to your local conditions, and you can save money in replenishing your own crops next season.
What You Should Know About Saving Seeds
Choose plants to save seeds from that are the strongest, healthiest, best producers of your crops. It's a good idea to mark the plants that you've chosen to save seed from, with weather proof surveyor's ribbon so that it doesn't get picked accidentally. Some plants are self-pollinating and can pollinate their own blossoms, while others are open-pollinating, and need bees or other insects to spread their pollen from plant to plant.
Self-pollinating plants that you wish to procure seed from should be isolated by a light frame covered with mesh netting or screen, to assure that your seeds will be true to the type of plant it was harvested from.
Hybrids have more desirable characteristics than either parent plant, but their seeds may produce plants that resemble their inbred grandparents more than either parent plant. Some hybrids produce seeds true to their parent plant, however. They include yarrow, columbine, Shasta daisy, Early Sunrise coreopsis, foxglove, purple coneflower, blanket flower, coral bells, Arkwright's companion, balloon flower and spike speedwell.
Harvesting Dry Seeds
Dry seeds are not embedded in wet flesh of fruit and are usually dry right out of the plant, although they may be enclosed in pods, husks, or seed heads. Gather seeds that are carried by the wind or are ejected by the plant by attaching bags over blooms before they go to seed. Some dry seeds may need to be threshed or winnowed before storage. Threshing can be done by stomping on the seedpods to remove the seeds.
Winnowing is a technique of separating seeds from the seedpods or other plant debris that utilizes the wind to carry the lighter chaff away. Since wind can be unpredictable, it helps to use a fan or blow dryer with the heating element removed to simulate the wind.
Harvesting Wet Seeds
Wet seeds must be extracted from the surrounding fleshy tissue. Some plants require fermentation of the ripe or rotting fruit, in water for a few days before this can be done.
Most seeds need to be dry for storage. Airtight glass jars stored in the refrigerator work well. Desiccants such as silica gel or powdered milk in a tissue sachet, can be used to draw moisture that gets in, away from seeds.
Seeds that require moist storage can be stored in a plastic bag with a few drops of water, in a moist paper towel, or in moist peat moss in the refrigerator. Rue anemone, spring beauty, corydalis, bleeding hearts, winter aconite, hepaticas, twinleaf, bloodroot, foamflowers, trilliums, violets and iris do better in moist storage.