Avoid buying F1 seeds, buying non-hybrid seeds allows you to seed save for the next year. This also helps ensure the survival of these plants. For decades gardeners saved seeds from their best plants and over time developed plants that were accustomed to the conditions in that area. There were many different strains of the plant able to live in different climates able to adapt and survive.
Real Seeds actively encourage seed saving and provide information with the seeds and on their website
"Seed-saving is easy. You'll get better seed than you can buy, even from us. And you can keep your own varieties going for future years."
Harvesting Seeds - from organic food
Using good quality organic produce, for example a home delivery organic vegbox, some seeds and even potatoes can be planted.
Cherry tomatoes are a good place to start. Scoop out the seeds, wash off the pulp and dry them on kitchen paper.
These need a long warm growing season and are best grown indoors or in a greenhouse. Gently shake the plant every few days to aid pollination.
Peas and Chickpeas
Sow dried seeds early Spring if you want to produce pods. If you want pea shoots you can sow at any time.
Experiment with borlotti, fava, kidney, and soy. You may not get a huge harvest but it is fun to try.
Any old potatoes that have started sprouting can be grown.
Harvesting Seeds - Paper bag method
This method is particularly good for wildflowers as they quite often have light seeds that will blow away easily.
On a dry day when most of the seed heads have turned brown put a paper bag over the heads and tie the bag closed with string. Snip off the stem and turn the bag the right way up. Store for several days or months then shake the stems to remove the seeds.
Testing the Viability of Seeds
I don't test seeds I have recently bought, but testing seeds you have saved can stop you wasting time caring for and watering a pot of compost with no result.
Using paper towels and a tray or saucer put seeds between the sheets and keep moist check regularly for germination. You can then cut the seeds out and pop the seed and paper into a pot of compost to continue growing.
Store seeds in cool, dry conditions to avoid fungal problems. I store mine in a hinged tin. I made cardboard dividers for the months of the year so I know what I need to plant. Avoid storing seeds in plastic bags if the place your seeds are stored varies in temperature.
Organise your seeds and keep them in one place so you don't reorder or leave them past their planting dates.
Other ideas for storage:
An old photo album or file with sleeves to put the individual packets in
Individual glass jars or metal pots such as herb jars
Small paper envelopes (the type your wages used to come in, you have to be old to remember this!)
Use recycled materials such as:
I often use newspaper pots. I have a wooden paper pot maker but before than I used a tall metal spice tin. The seedling and pot can be planted with minimal root disturbance. The disadvantage is that the little pots do dry out quickly.
Cardboard toilet and kitchen roll tubes
These are great for longer rooted seedlings such as peas and beans. The ends can be folded over to stop so much soil falling out.
I haven't used these as we don't buy yoghurt in plastic pots. Drainage holes need to be made in the bottom. My mum used to heat a skewer in a flame to make the holes but be careful doing this as the fumes are toxic.
Make holes in the bottom of the cans with a hammer and nail.
Cardboard boxes can be planted with the seedling. I do tend to careful break the bottom to allow the roots to get into the ground quicker. I also use egg boxes for chitting potatoes.
Pet food pouches
My fussy elderly cat sometimes refuses to eat her tinned food so I resort to plastic pouches. Again make sure you have drainage holes, I cut the bottom with a few slits.
When watering seedlings be careful that you don't overwater as this can lead to 'damping off' where the seedlings stop growing and seem to wilt.
This is something I want to try. To avoid sowing too thickly and disturbing the roots of the seedlings by thinning later, seed tapes can be made rather than bought.
Use unbleached natural toilet paper and fold in half lengthways, press to crease and then open up.
Mixing flour and water for 'glue' drop at the required planting distance along the toilet paper near the crease and then drop a seed onto the blob or use a toothpick and pick up a seed with a blob of 'glue'.
Using a paintbrush or spoon run some 'glue' along the side to seal and refold the toilet tissue in half.
Leave to dry completely, label and roll up the strip ready for planting.
Plant at the required depth by digging a trench and unrolling the toilet tissue and water well.
Hardening off especially if you started seedlings indoors is essential. Take the plants out during the day but bring back inside at night for a few days then leave out as long as they won't get frosted and then plant out.