How to Dry Out Seeds in the Fall to Plant Next Spring
If you have heirloom plants or you're particularly fond of specific flowers in your garden, you can grow them year after year by saving the seeds.
Step 1: Determine if you can keep your seeds Go online to determine whether you have the kinds of seeds you can keep. Hybrid plants produce seeds that are often sterile or don't reproduce true to their parent plants. Open-pollinated plants have to be isolated from others in their families so that don't cross-pollinate. Still others may transmit diseases.
TIP: Plants that are open-pollinated include squash, melons, parsley, broccoli, celery, spinach, cauliflower, kale, radishes, beets, onions, and basil.
Step 2: Harvest from the best plants Harvest your seeds from the best plants you have. Choose plants that are disease-free and have the prettiest flowers or best-tasting fruit.
Step 3: Harvest mature seeds Harvest only mature seeds. Seeds are fully mature when the plant's flowers are faded and dry. Plants with pods are ready when the pods are brown and dry.
Step 4: Use a dry method Use a dry method to save seeds from beans, peas, onions, carrots, corn, and most flowers and herbs. Allow the seeds to dry as long as possible on the plant, and then remove them to a screen to finish drying in a single layer.
TIP: For very small or lightweight seeds, put the seed heads into paper bags to catch the seeds as they fall out.
Step 5: Use the wet method Use the wet method for tomatoes, cucumbers, and roses. Scoop out the seed masses from the fruit or flower and put them in a jar with warm water. Let them ferment for 2 to 4 days, stirring daily. The viable seeds will sink to the bottom. Pour off the pulp, bad seeds, and mold, and spread the good seeds on paper towel to dry.
Step 6: Store seeds dry Make sure your seeds are thoroughly dry when you store them. Keep them in envelopes or glass jars labeled with the seed type and date, and then put the containers in the freezer for 2 days to kill pests.
Step 7: Plant your seeds in a timely fashion Most seeds lose viability over time, so plant them within 3 years. Parsley, sweet corn, and onion must be planted the following year. By fall, your garden will be a reminder of your previous successful harvest!
FACT: The largest seed in the plant kingdom is from the coco de mer, or double coconut palm, and weighs 40 pounds.