Collecting and Saving Garden Seeds

The change of seasons is an inevitable reality we face every year, marking an end to our harvest and calling us to retire our tools until the next gardening season. But don't let summer's end get you and your green thumb down; you can still get your gardening fix during the offseason by collecting and saving garden seeds.

Collecting seeds gives you the opportunity to save your favorite plants and vegetables from the current season, so you can enjoy them in next year's garden. It not only saves you time and helps with garden preparation; collecting garden seeds can also save you money in the long-term.

The practice of collecting and saving garden seeds is not complicated, but it does require a few steps to be done correctly. With these tips, you can look forward to the new season and start a new hobby.

Timing

Since plants grow at different rates, a general rule of thumb is to wait until a plant reaches the end of its growing cycle before collecting seeds. This is usually the end of the summer, when the plant seems to be dried out or dying. It's also important to pay close attention to color as this can indicate a plant has reached its maturity. If a plant is dull-looking or brownish in color (not from disease), the plant probably completed its growth for the season. '

Technique

When collecting garden seeds, it's important to first analyze the plants you are selecting from and pay close attention to their overall health. Avoid selecting seeds from plants with disease, as this will most likely carry over to next year's plant. When you've determined which plants you will save seeds from, the process is simple: You can either deadhead flowers, or you can cut the plants and let them completely dry out, gently shaking or tapping plants to free their seeds. Perennials and annuals - like daisies and marigolds - tend to be the easiest to collect, but you can also collect vegetable seeds. If you choose to save vegetable seeds, you should scrape the seeds from the plant and let them air dry. Be sure you have a labeling process in place so you can avoid any mix-ups later.

Storing

Whether you're saving a few seeds or enough to fill a large garden, it's essential that your seeds are in the right form and placed in the proper environment. Seeds should be completely dry before storing and kept in a cool, dry environment (damp conditions can promote mold and disease). Plastic bags and jars can contain moisture, it's best to use paper envelopes and be sure you label the envelopes appropriately. After you secure and label seeds, share and trade with family and friends for variety in your garden next year.