Saving seeds from vegetables grown in the family garden is a great way to reduce food prices while producing fresh, flavorful meals season after season.

Some seeds are easier to grow and provide higher yields than others, so it’s good to know which vegetable varieties you should buy or simply avoid collecting. The large seeds produced by melons, peas, squash, beans and corn are simple to gather and clean.

For the most consistent results from seed collecting and saving:

– Steer clear of hybrids, biennials and varieties like broccoli and radish that tend to cross-pollinate with other plant types. They may not be worth the bother of isolating or covering.

– Study the calendar and know your hardiness zone. Vegetable varieties that require a long growing season should be started indoors so they can escape the last killing frost of spring yet produce sizable crops before the first autumn chill.

– Gather seed from the healthiest plants in your garden rather than those that are earliest to mature. That may result over time in a personalized cultivar – your own heirloom vegetable, if you will -adapted to fit your tastes and growing conditions

– Harvest, label and store the seed as soon as your plants reach the proper stage of maturity. Seeds must be fully ripe to germinate.

– Warehouse the clean, dry seed in sealed envelopes, plastic containers or glass canning jars. Keep them cool and dry, preferably in 35- to 40-degree temperatures. A refrigerator makes a good over-wintering site.

– Seeds from some plants have more staying power than seeds taken from others, but germination and yields will be best if you return them to the ground the following spring.

Recommended reading:

“Seed Sowing and Saving: Step-by-Step Techniques for Collecting and Growing More than 100 Vegetables, Flowers and Herbs,” by Carole B. Turner. Storey Publishing. List price: $19.95.

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