There are many benefits to saving seeds, and after several generations of plants you may even have created your own variety. As you collect seeds from one of the strongest and tastiest plants, you can look forward to developing plants which are more and more suited to the exact conditions in your garden.
When saving vegetable seeds select heirloom varieties. Do not save seeds from hybrids unless you don't mind unpredictable results.
If you plan on planting at a later date the seeds must be dried properly to ensure good germination.
Aren't these always popping up in the compost? You can transplant from there, but if you've thrown out scraps from bought vegetables there may be some surprises to be had. The hybrid vegetables that we buy from the green grocer's don't always produce offspring with the same qualities.
Chop up the fruit and plant pieces fresh if there is enough time left in the season. The fleshy bits will feed the young seedlings.
To prepare seeds for storage start by removing any extra material by soaking and/or gently rinsing. Some seeds, like those harvested from capsicum, are clean enough already.
Beans and peas: ...or any plant from the Legume family that produces a pod are very easy saving seeds from. Let the pod shrivel on the plant before picking it, and taking it indoors for shelling and further drying.
Mustard family: These plants also produce pods, but these types of pods will 'explode' and scatter their seeds far afield if left to mature. Better enclose the top of the plant in a cloth bag before this happen.
Choose a material that has a loose weave to allow the breeze through. Your garden supply store will possibly have something called 'exclusion bags', and they will work equally well as 'inclusion bags'. Curtain netting is also suitable if you prefer to make your own.
In a couple of weeks when the seeds have dried and fallen off you can cut the stalk and bring it all inside without loosing any.
In warm climates there is no need to do anything other than wait. Effortless.
In colder areas some vegetables need protection in winter. Beets, carrots, onions, and celery will not survive in the ground. Grow these in pots that can be moved to a frost free spot over winter.
Harvesting small seeds: It's easy enough saving seeds that are big and perhaps inside a fruit. But what about those that are barely visible?
Tiny seeds like those from basil, marjoram or onion can be harvested easily by enclosing the seed head in a cloth bag. When the flowering is over and you can see the seeds developing is the right time to do this.
Drying seeds: It is important to dry seeds thoroughly, as any moisture will encourage mould and critters.
Spread seeds in a single layer on newspaper or tissue paper. It's best if they don't touch each other. Remove seeds that are smaller or thinner than the majority. They're probably under developed and no good.
Place in a well ventilated, dry, warm area away from the sun. Give them a shake every week or so for about a month. If the air humidity is high it will take longer.
Storing seeds: Place the seeds in a cool, dry, vermin free and dark place. Label small paper bags with name and date and put them in a jar or a tin. Small plastic zip lock bags are practical, but if the seeds are not thoroughly dried they can also trap unwanted moisture. Ideally the seeds should be used the next season.
When you've learnt how to save seeds you'll wonder why you used to spend so much money needlessly on punnets and seed packets.