One of my significant "ah-ha" moments when we first started our garden was FLOWERS. We witnessed a significant impact on the health of our garden simply by adding flowers to our beds. We have a very small garden, so our flowers are mostly interplanted, or tucked between the vegetable plants. Once they are flowering, you'll witness a variety of good insects (pollinators and other beneficial insects) visiting your garden. If you've never saved seeds before, flower seeds are a good way to learn. In our garden, we have nasturtiums and marigolds. Choose the strongest and best plants to save seeds from (and in our case, from a variety of colors), as these are selected for your garden. By saving seeds from your own garden, you'll save money by not having to repurchase them. You will probably have enough to share and/or trade with your friends! That's fun AND frugal :)
When should you save the seeds? The best time is when they are dried on the plant, but before they have fallen. This requires patience and watching your plants. For some flowers, this just doesn't work well. In the case of our nasturtiums, the seeds often fall to the ground before they are dried. Here are some nasturtium seeds just emerging... we watched them to see if they would dry on the plant, but none of them did.
We collected these seeds as soon as possible -- you don't want seeds that have been on the ground for a while, and certainly not ones that have been out in a lot of rain. I wanted the seeds to be as far along as possible, but not yet degrading. In our case, we waited for these seeds to fall from the plant. They weren't dried, but we could help with that part! You'll be able to tell if the seed has recently fallen, as they are probably firm and still green or a bit browning, but not soft. The outside will be intact and show no signs of degradation. You might have to hunt a bit for the seeds -- here are some nasturtium seeds I found hiding under the plant!
Once you've collected the seeds, now you will want to dry them thoroughly for storage. In my experience, a paper plate is the best surface for this. It allows a bit of air circulation compared to a solid surface (plastic or other), but the seeds won't stick to it as often happens with a towel (either fabric or paper). Plus, they don't roll off the surface! Once the seeds are completely dry (usually after a couple days -- see the picture below for what our nasturtium seeds looked like after they were dried), store in a breathable container like a paper envelope. Don't forget to LABEL your seed container! Include as much information as possible, including the date you collected them, and the full name of the plant.
Store your seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place. Seed packets can be saved in a jar or other airtight container, to keep out the moisture so your seeds won't mold or mildew. It doesn't hurt to check on them occasionally to make sure they remain in good condition. It's best to use these seeds as soon as possible. If you can't use them all, consider sharing with friends, or attending a seed swap! Try these sites for seed swapping:
- International Seed Saving Institute
- Seed Saving Tips from West Virginia University Extension Service
- Seed Saving - Quick Tips for Saving Your Garden Favorites