It’s an advantage to vegetable gardeners to harvest seeds from plants that did well in their garden. The plant would have grown accustomed to the particulars of the plot, and provided the same DNA to the seeds. Unfortunately, hybrid varieties do not keep their traits; don’t collect these unless one likes surprises.
It is illegal to gather seed in forest preserves, natural areas, or parks. It is legal to gather seed on rights-of-way, which are mostly along public highways. Do not take all of the seeds of a plant, please share with Mother Nature.
Most seeds are easy to find and harvest like peas, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. Others need the help of a blender like eggplant. Chop the fruit, add water, blend for a short time, and allow the pulp to settle. Pour off the pulp, the viable seeds will be at the bottom.
Slimy seeds like tomatoes and cucumbers can be dried on a paper towel.
Rose hips should be allowed to dry on the shrub. Again, hybrids will not grow true. Either slit open to remove the seed or keep whole, both work.
Some seeds need extra treatments to germinate. You may not know how to treat your seeds, but the internet is a knowledgeable place.
Great websites to find out how different seeds need to be treated:
Stratification is the process of inducing seeds from dormancy through cold treatment. To stratify, soak seeds in water for up to 24 hours, combine with moist peat and sand, and put in a plastic bag. Place this mixture in a refrigerator for 4 – 12 weeks at 34 – 41F. Some seeds that need stratification are; bleeding heart, columbine, cotoneaster, euonymus, gas plant, holly, peony, roses, and serviceberry.
Some seeds have hard coverings that need penetration to germinate. This process is called scarification. Large seeds can be nicked with a knife or sanded with a file or sandpaper. Soak smaller seeds in a hot water [190F] for 24 hours, remove and plant immediately. Seeds that need scarification are apple, beets, carrots, pansy, celery, and honey locust.
The method of storing seed is simple, but very important. Seeds must be kept dry, and in a cooler location [68F] that does not fluctuate. Old film canisters, baby food jars, and paper envelopes work well, and storage in a basement offers cooler temperatures.
Seeds loose their viability after the first year unless the storage process was flawless. There are two ways to check if seeds are viable. Pour the seeds into a glass of water, the seeds that fall to the bottom are good, the floaters are bad. Or place at least 30 seeds on a moist paper towel, fold over, and place in a plastic bag. After a few days, check for germination. Use the results as a guide to how many seeds to sow allowing for some seed failure.
Keeping a detailed log is also a good idea. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but knowing when your seeds were collected, the conditions the plant was growing in, for veggies; how the crop was and any other things you find important.
© Ilex Farrell ~ Midwestern Plant Girl