Although many plants are starting to think about wrapping up their floral extravaganza, they are by no means ready to “put their roots up” for the season. They are now shifting into seed-making mode, ensuring their survival in the next season should they not make it through the winter. If they are left to their own devices, their seeds will form and then be dispersed, whether by sticking to an animal, dropping to the ground, explosively bursting out of their seed pods, or any of the other ingenious ways that Nature has devised to propagate herself.
But what if we want to save some seeds ourselves? What if we grew a really delicious tomato this year, or had an annual that we particularly liked? Can we save the seeds from those plants, and plant them next year? The answer in most cases, is yes. The trick is knowing what needs to happen to each seed in order for it to successfully germinate. Some, like the Himalayan Blue Poppy (Mecanopsis), need to go through a period of cold (stratification) before they will germinate. Plants like Morning Glory, whose seed coats are extra hard will germinate faster if they are scratched a little with a file or sandpaper (scarification), while others will need to be burned with fire or exposed to acid before they will start to grow. Luckily for us, most seeds respond well simply to warm, moist soil. It has been said that “a seed is a plant in a box with its lunch”, meaning that the seed itself already contains everything that it needs to get a good start in life.
Just as seeds have specific requirements when it comes to germination, each kind of seed will have its preferred method or preparation before being stored, as well. We encourage you to research the plant whose seed you want to save for optimal success, and to help you do that, here are a couple of good articles that go into the process in detail. The first is an article on saving vegetable seeds. The second talks about perennial seeds.
Once you have collected your seeds, the main thing is to get them completely dry so as to avoid mold problems. Then keep them dry by putting them in an airtight container. As added insurance, you can put in one of those little silica gel packs that seem to come in everything these days. Then keep them in a cool to cold place until it’s time to sow.
When you save seeds for planting the next season, you do a powerful thing. To paraphrase Robert Schuller, while you can count the number of seeds in a sunflower, you can only begin to count the number of sunflowers in a sunflower seed.
Have fun out there!