One way to save money on your garden is to harvest your own seeds for future planting purposes. Many types of vegetables, annuals and perennials produce abundant amounts of seeds after blooming. These seeds often drop to the ground or blow away in the wind. By harvesting these seeds, you can continue growing the same variety of plants during subsequent years. Proper seed harvesting involves correct timing and technique.
Determine which plants to collect seeds from. Place markers by plants during periods of full bloom to help you find them after their beauty fades. Investigate areas where wildflowers blossom to determine varieties suitable for planting in your yard.
Examine each plant regularly after the flowers begin to wilt. Different plant species produce seeds at various times during the growing season. Be ready to harvest spring blossoms before their seeds drop in early summer. Likewise, watch for late-season flowers to produce seeds in the fall. Avoid missing the appropriate harvest time for each variety.
Gather seeds from flowers when seeds become dry and show signs of loosening from the seed clusters inside the flower head. Avoid losing small seeds by cutting flower heads off above a plastic bag to later sort and separate indoors. Check seed pods for maturity by gently shaking the pods. Rattling sounds indicate seed readiness.
Sort and clean your harvested seeds in a dry area. Spread them out over a broad area. Remove plant particles and bugs from your seeds. Toss out any deformed or damaged seeds. Make certain all seeds are completely dry before packaging.
Place seeds in clean envelopes and label each envelope according to seed type and date harvested. Place envelopes in tight jars to prevent damage from humidity. Seeds require cool, dry locations to protect viability. Place your jars of seeds in a dry, dark area, such as a refrigerator, basement or closet.
Plant your harvested seeds the following season to encourage high rates of germination. Seed viability decreases as seeds age.