There are plenty of good reasons to save your own seeds.
You’ll save money, help to preserve the genetic diversity of food plants, and develop plant varieties that thrive in the growing conditions you provide and are more resistant to pests and blights.
In addition, while agribusiness favors varieties that store well for shipping, home gardeners can select for traits such as great taste and suitability to local climate.
When planning your seed collection strategy, keep in mind that some plants only produce seeds in their second year and hybrid plants don’t breed true to parental type – in other words, if you save seeds from hybrids, they won’t be exactly like their parents. For this reason, many gardening sites recommend against saving hybrid tomato seeds. However, like many other avid gardeners, I’ve grown delicious tomatoes from saved hybrid seeds. The plants weren’t exactly like their parents, but they were still wonderful.
Some plants, such as squash, melons, and cucumbers, can also be cross-pollinated by insects. If you save seeds from a cross-pollinated plant, the produce of the offspring will be a cross between that of the two parents, and usually inferior in flavor.
Different types of seeds do best with particular harvest and storage methods, so it’s a good idea to do a bit of research into the seeds you plan to save for best results. As a general rule, you should harvest fruit seeds and the seeds of certain vegetables once produce has ripened but before it rots and dry them at room temperature.
With pod crops such as peas, leave the pods on the vine until they dry and then harvest the seeds before they disperse. If the plant produces seed heads, these should also be left on the plants to dry before harvesting. Some seeds require special methods. For example, tomato seeds are typically fermented in water and then placed on paper towels to dry.
Check the requirements of the seeds you wish to save beforehand to be sure that you’re providing ideal harvest conditions and store them in a dry cool place until they will be used.
“Why Save Seeds?” Vegetable and Seed Saving Handbook, n.d.
Ellis, J.E., & Whiting, D., “Saving Seed,” Colorado State University Extension, March 2008.
International Seed Saving Institute, “Beginner,” 24 February 2005.
MacKensie, J., “Saving Vegetables Seeds: Tomatoes, Peppers, Peas and Beans,” University of Minnesota Extension, 2012.