Harvesting seeds from your own garden is a great way to save money and the seeds can be traded with neighbor’s seeds so that you get variety. Many people are not successful in getting good plants from seeds they harvest on their own, but there are a few rules to follow to get excellent yield. Here is how it is done:
A flower is the beginning of a seed, as the flower dies at the base of the flower, a fruit or seedpod will develop. The seeds must mature fully to ensure that you will get healthy plants the following summer.
You will know that a seed is mature when the fruit or seedpod is not green or moist. When the fruit or seedpod changes color and dries out the seeds are mature and ready to be harvested. Seeds taken from fruits should be removed after the fruit has ripened, but before it rots. Summer squash, cucumbers, winter squash and pumpkin should all be left on the vine until after the first frost then the seeds should be removed. Pod and seed heads should be gathered after they dry, but before dispersal. Gather the seeds and remove any pulp, fruit or chaff before storing. Leaving anything on the seed will make in more prone to rotting.
Proper storing of the seeds is vital in ensuring good germination the following spring. You will want to allow the seeds to dry out completely before storing. This can be done by spreading the seeds out and placing them outside in a shady area on a warm day. Direct sunlight, drying in an oven or a microwave is harsh and will often kill the seeds. After the seeds are dry store them in moisture proof airtight containers in an area that is below 40 degrees. This will ensure that the seeds will not try to sprout while in storage because the dry cool environment encourages the seeds to remain dormant.
Be sure to label all the containers with the name of the plant and when the seeds were harvested. Nearly all seeds have a prime shelf life, so it is important to use them within that time. For most plants it is best to plant the seeds the following year to get the best quality. The shelf life varies depending upon the plant so if you are unsure, check with a local extension office or look up information about the plant online. Proper labeling will also make it easier to exchange seeds with friends.