Saving seeds year to year is a simple way to save money on your gardening venture. It also is a good way to make sure you can grow the vegetable varieties that you want. Seed saving takes a little knowledge since the process is different for each type of vegetable. It isn't difficult, though, and the benefits are continuous.
The main complication in purchasing seeds from a company is that they can cease selling any variety for any reason. It can be that the seed isn't selling well and is losing the company money. It can be that others have reported it doesn't produce well or simply because there isn't enough space in the catalog to list it. When this happens, it is likely that seed will become impossible to procure again. The company doesn't care if it is your favorite type of tomato or if it is the one that your family has been growing for generations. When you save seeds, the decisions of the seed company don't impact you as harshly.
Saving seed saves money since there is less need to purchase new ones every year. Buying seed adds up fast, especially when you are planting with the intention of selling some of your crops. Purchasing new seeds every year cuts into your profits.
The easiest seeds to save are peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and peas. Seeds are plentiful in these vegetables and are easily removed. Squash and melon seeds are difficult to save and it is not recommended for beginners. The seeds of hybrid vegetables should not be saved. They do not grow back true to type.
Pepper seeds are the simplest to save. Pick a fully mature pepper, cut it open and remove the seeds. Spread the seeds out on a paper towel or paper bag until they are dry. Pepper seeds are viable for 2 years.
Tomato seeds are saved through the 'wet method'. This method inoculates the seeds from diseases. Scoop out all the seeds and pulp from a ripe tomato and put it all together in a glass. Add a bit of water to make a slurry. Stir the mixture twice a day for 5 days. The mixture will ferment and grow a white mold while the good seeds sink to the bottom and the bad seeds stay on top with the pulpy mush. After 5 days, carefully strain the pulp and bad seeds away, reserving the good ones at the bottom. Wash the seeds well and spread them out on a paper towel or bag until they are dry. Tomato seeds are good for 3-4 years.
Cucumber seeds are saved using the same 'wet method' as tomatoes. Cucumber fruit should be left on the vine until the vine dies and the fruit is yellow and beyond ripe. Harvest the fruit and let it continue ripening until it becomes soft. Cut the fruit open and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Then, continue the process as you would for tomatoes. Cucumber seeds are good up to 5 years.
Beans and peas are left on the plant until the pods turn brown and the seeds rattle inside the skins. This generally takes a month longer than the normal harvest time. After picking the pods, lay them out on a flat surface to continue the drying process for two weeks. Bean and pea pods can be stored as they are or they can be shelled. Both of these types of seeds are viable for 3-4 years.
Seeds need to be completely dried and brittle before being stored. They should be stored in a cool, dry, location in individually labeled airtight containers. A cool basement, refrigerator, or freezer all work well to store seeds.