Now that fall is here, the harvest is happening, may be already complete in some regions or has already been wrapped up in others, most of us home gardeners in the north won’t think about planting again until the soil defrosts in the spring. But if your garden really thrived this year, you found some favorite cultivars and grew amazing vegetables, maybe you want to try to continue the trend in the next growing season, perhaps it is time to think about saving some seeds from your best specimens.
Generally, openly pollinated varieties, heirlooms, will be propagated from seed the most easily, as the genetic stability is maintained. But if you favor sprouts or microgreens this will be of less importance. Some plants are self-pollinating, while others rely on outside vehicles for pollination such as wind, water or insects, this is termed out-crossing. In our gardens the most typical self-pollinators are peas, lettuce and tomatoes, and thus they are unlike to readily hybridize even if several varieties are planted in close proximity. Alternatively, squashes, members of the cabbage family and onions are outcrossers and will cross-pollinate and hybridize amongst various varieties in your garden. The only way to maintain genetic purity, if you are concerned with that sort of thing, is to grow individuals in isolation and protect them from stray pollen.
For seed production, select the strongest, healthiest and most productive individuals from your garden with traits you value and are worth preservation. Once seeds have been harvested, dry them thoroughly, package them in clearly labeled envelopes or jars with the species, variety and date collected, then store them in a cool, dry place. Discussed below are the methods and best practices for collecting and storing the seeds of several popular garden plants, this is not an exhaustive list, for more detailed and extensive information contact your local agricultural extension.