One simple way to save money on both garden supplies and groceries is to save seeds from garden produce and replant from year to year.
If you want to harvest seeds from the star performers in your garden, you’ll need to start by choosing open-pollinated varieties that will produce the same type of plant and fruit every time you save seeds from it and replant them. Hybrid varieties are unpredictable, and genetically modified organisms often come with patents that make it illegal for you to save seed and replant the next year. Any seed labeled as an “heirloom” variety is a good candidate for saving and replanting.
Choose seeds from the best plants in your garden. If, for instance, you have a particular tomato plant that is outperforming the others of its type, harvest seeds from that plant.
For plants that set fruit with seeds inside, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, allow the fruit to reach full maturity before you harvest it. For leafy plants, such as spinach, collards or lettuce, allow the plant to mature and set seed, then leave it alone until the seed pods are dry and brown. Do the same for beans and peas. When the pods are completely dry, bring them in and remove the seeds from them.
In some plants — for instance, cucumbers and tomatoes — the seeds are surrounded by gelatinous fluid. To harvest, scoop out the seeds, spread them thinly on a paper towel, and leave them in a warm, dry place until all the moisture evaporates. When the paper towel is completely dry, peel off the seeds. It’s OK if some of the paper comes with them.
Seal dry seeds in an airtight container, such as a ziplock sandwich bag, labeled with the year and variety. If you live in a humid area, you might want to save the little silica gel packets that come in shoeboxes, purses and some kinds of beef jerky and slip one in each bag with the seeds to absorb moisture. For best germination, store seeds in a dry, relatively cool place, and plant them the next season.
If you end up with more than you can use, share them with friends who garden.