Maybe this post should start with a warning..... once you start saving seeds its very hard to stop. I cannot walk past a seed head without wondering if I should save the seeds. This includes public gardens, and other people's gardens. At this time of year my garden is full of brassica flowers, which are gradually turning into seed pods, and I know in a few weeks I will be starting to harvest the seeds. If you want to save seeds, you need to start thinking about it when the flowers start to appear. Don't rip out your plants right away, you could be missing out on free seeds! Here's why and how to save and store seeds.
Why save seeds from your garden?
Seeds that you save are free, you don't have to buy seeds or seedlings
You start to develop strains that are adapted to your climate and conditions
You have something to swap with other seed-savers - more free seeds
You remain in control of your food supply, not relying on seed companies
poor mans beans seeds
How to save seeds?
Every plant is different, but basically, let the plant flower, and wait and see how the seeds formed. You need to be patient and curious. Eventually you will see seed pods, and when they are dry you can harvest the seeds. If they are inside the fruit (like tomatoes or pumpkins) you need to separate the seeds and let them dry out. If you really want to get technical, you can isolate different varieties from each other, but if you just want to give it a try, just let the seeds form and observe what happens.
a bee pollinating a brassica flower
How to store seeds?
I read somewhere that you should save a third of your seeds, give away a third, and put a third straight back on the soil. I forget where I read that, but I think its good advice. I let some of the seed fall directly on the garden, where it usually re-appears the next year when the time is right. I save as much as I can in small jars, and I giveaway seed when I have more than I can use. I like to share it around and encourage other people to save seed too.
Most of my garden is now self-seeded or grown from saved seeds, that means I don't have to pay for seeds or seedlings, and everything sprouts when its ready, I don't have to figure out the right time to plant. I didn't take a class or read a book to learn how to save seeds, I just let the flowers develop into seeds and watched nature do the work for me. Its not difficult, it just takes time.