The first step to ensuring high quality seeds are collected is to harvest the flower or pod once dry and continue to keep them dry. After the dry flower or pod has been removed from the plant be sure to label these seeds to ensure they are not accidently mixed with other seeds or varieties. Next, remove any debris and place the seeds in a location that has consistent dry air circulation. A good place to dry seeds is indoors on a windowsill that receives direct sunlight. An alternative is to use an electric fan to gently circulate air around seeds that are contained in material such as paper towel or fabric. The time required to thoroughly dry seeds vary quite a lot, but generally the smaller the seed the quicker it will adequately dry. Several days of drying time may be necessary to dry larger seeds. It is important to note that seeds should not be dried with heat, such as in an oven, as this will destroy the seed’s ability to germinate. Room temperature or slightly warmer will be adequate to remove moisture from the seeds.
Wet seeded crops will require additional steps to process the seeds. Common wet seeded crops include cantaloupe, eggplant, peppers, pumpkin, squash, tomato, and watermelon. Before collecting seed, the fruit will need to be fully mature to ensure the fruit contain viable seeds. Seeds will need to be separated from the fruit’s flesh and this can be accomplished by thoroughly washing and removing any remaining flesh with paper towels or wash cloth. Once the seeds have been cleaned, they can be dried and stored in the same way as dry seeded crops.
Seeds can be kept in paper envelopes, paper bags, or equivalent to store seed. Once packaged, include on the label the name and variety of the plant it originated from and the date it was packaged. Seed packages can be kept secure in jars or airtight containers to ensure that moisture and pests do not ruin the seeds while in storage. Once stored, the seeds will typically remain viable for several years so long as they are kept cool and dry. Harvesting and storying seeds allows a gardener to gain greater independence in a time when a future seed supply is not guaranteed.
The topic of hybrid, heirloom, open pollination, cross pollination, and genetically modified seeds will need to be addressed in another discussion.