I can’t wait for the day I don’t need to purchase anything in the spring for the garden. In my fantasy we will produce enough compost to feed all of our beds, attract enough good insects to battle the bad pests, utilize companion planting to perfection and save ALL of our own seeds. But we are far from that and I have only started dipping my toe into the world of seed saving! If you have purchased “open pollinated” or ” heirloom” seed you can save the seeds in the fall and plant them again next year. With open pollinated seeds you always get offspring that are the same as the parents you saved the seeds from. If you save seed from “hybrid” seeds you will have no idea what the offspring will turn out like. Then of course there are plants that you need to grow in isolation to ensure you do not cross pollinate. I feel like this is already getting more complicated than necessary!!!
Some seeds take almost no work to save while others require a multi-step process. Let’s first start with the low hanging fruit!
Beans require very little as you just allow them to dry in their pods. Once the pods are dry enough that they split with a little pressure you can harvest them. Simply spit the pods and save the beans in a non-air tight container so they can continue to dry until there is no moisture left. If your first fall frost comes before the beans are dry you need to pull the whole vines and hang it to dry in a frost free area.
Leave corn on the plants as long as possible so the kernels dry as much as possible on the plant. Once the husk is dry and brown harvest the ears on a dry day. Pull back the husks on each ear. Allow corn to dry a couple more months. Remove any ears that are off color or get moldy. Shell kernels and store in glass canning jars.
This is the first year I’m going to the next level and am attempting to save tomato seeds. Tomato seeds are a bit more tricky. First you squeeze the seeds, juice and pulp from the tomatoes into a canning jar. Then you let those jars sit….and get all gross and moldy. You need to stir it twice a day. It WILL smell and you WILL get fruit flies. After about 5 days you fill the jar with water, stir and let the seeds sink down to the bottom. Stir off gunky water-but not the seeds that accumulate at the bottom. Put the seeds in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with water. Then you spread the seeds on paper plates and set the seeds in a dark, dry well ventilated location for about four weeks to dry.
Store all seeds long term in a dark, dry and cool location. Seeds can last for decades, heck even centuries if stored correctly! I’m excited for next spring to start growing my second, third and even fourth generation of vegetables!