Collecting and sowing your own seeds can be a fun and gratifying experience. At first the details may seem a little overwhelming, but as you gain experience and your new seedlings appear, you may start watching your flowers closely for more seeds you can collect from your flowers. Growing information that you normally get on the seed packets can be found in books or websites.
The first step is to choose healthy seed pods and fruits for seed collection. Healthy plants show vigorous growth, resistance to pests and diseases, and produce good quality fruit and high yields.
As the plants you have chosen finish flowering, check for swelling seedpods or ripening fruit – wait until it is fully mature. If picked too early, the embryo will not survive the drying out process. If picked too late, the wind may blow away the seeds.
Fine, nylon-mesh bags work well for collecting seeds. Paper bags also work well. Cloth bags are good for dry fruit and open baskets for fleshy fruit. Be sure not to squash the fruit. Do not let the seeds become hot or moldy.
When the seed pods are dry, remove the ripe seeds by hanging them upside down over a paper bag in a shaded, dry, airy place and wait for the seeds to fall. An occasional gentle tap will help.
Cut clustered seed heads, such as those of marigolds, whole and lay on a newspaper to dry. Whenever you harvest your own seed, remove as much of the chaff and other vegetable material as possible before storing. This material, if sown along with the seed, tends to rot and may encourage fungal diseases.
For most fruit such as ripe tomatoes or cucumbers, the seed is surrounded by mucilage. When the fruit is fully colored and ripe, scoop out these seeds and wash them in a sieve under running water to remove mucilage. Let dry in the shade.
Only clean and well-dried seeds should be stored. Two deadly enemies of stored seeds are warmth and moisture. Inspect the seeds one last time and put them in clean, airtight containers or small paper bags in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator.
The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County.