There are certain practices that happen every year that mark the changing of the seasons and in our home saving seeds is one of them. An activity that was commonplace a couple generations ago is now much rarer. Plus with the passing of the recent seed laws in the EU, it greatly restricted the vegetable varieties that can be registered and therefore sold.
A wonderful way to take back control, save money, create a personalized seedbank that it optimised for your specific growing conditions and honours timeworn traditions is to save your own seeds.
I have had success with a variety of herbs, flowers and vegetables: seeds that I have had good results with are- peas, beans, tomatoes, calendula, borage, fennel, parsley, ornamental amaranth, guara, and ornamental grasses.
The most important thing is that you are saving seed from open pollinated plants, this means plants that are naturally pollinated as opposed to artificially crossed like F1 hybrids. They will breed true. Throughout the growing season it is good to note the best performing plants and mark them out for seed saving later in the year.
Annual plants are the easiest to start with in my opinion as they grow, flower and set seed all in one year and as they are quite quick to get started in the year you are more likely to get viable seed. Biennials like carrots and beetroot you need to leave to flower the following year.
Furthermore some plants need isolation to breed true e.g chilli and pepper plants will cross so need some form of isolation, whereas peas are almost entirely self pollinated and will not readily cross with other varieties.
In the late summer/autumn when the seed pods have matured and dried remove the seeds. For large seeds like peas and beans you just have to pod them but for smaller seeds like lettuce you will probably have small bits of chaff with the seed. Give it all a good rub to dislodge the seeds from the other material and when it is all dry take it outside on a moderately breezy day (but to too windy or else you will loose you seeds). With two large bowls or buckets slowly pour the seeds from one container to the other from a decent height. When the breeze blows the lighter chaff with blow away and the heavier seed will fall into the container below. This process is called winnowing. Then you can dry further inside either in a warm area in a breathable bag; or you can dry some rice in the oven then place rice and seeds wrapped in a cut off bit of tights all in a jar for a couple of weeks. Either way you want to ensure the seeds are completely dry before putting them in storage as moisture will cause them to rot or fail.
When storing use paper envelopes or you can reuse the little plastic baggies from previous seeds. Then put them somewhere cool (but a steady temperature so not a shed) and dark. Make sure you label and date the seed packets accurately, as what you are sure you will remember soon fades from memory come spring.
Different seeds have different lifespans, but if you want to check viability you can sprinkle some seeds on a damp piece of paper towel and put in somewhere warm for a few days. If there is germination for the majority of seeds you are good to go, if its about 50% then sow more than you normally would, if less than 50% its probably best to get some new seed.
This is just a simple summery of some of the practices of seed saving that I use in my own garden. If you would like to learn more I cannot recommend enough The Real Seeds Company, who have a plethora of free, detailed information on seed saving. And for an even more thorough delve the book Back-Yard Seed Saving, by Sue Stickland is a wonderful resource. Neither of these recommendations are sponsored, I just use them in my personal gardening to great effect so feel confident suggesting them.
Please mention in the comments if you decide to have a go or are a longstanding seed saver, I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading, Grace x