Collect seeds when they are mature and drying on their stalks. Lay them out in a shady spot during warm weather for 2-3 days. They should be ready to store after that time. Remember: the drier the seed, the better. There are some seeds that might take a little longer to dry. Listen to the sound the seeds make when you break it to decide if it is dry enough. When the seed is dry, large, flat seeds, like pumpkin seeds, make a snapping sound when twisted. Large, thick seeds, like maize or beans, make a cracking sound when bitten. Small seeds make a cracking sound when squeezed between fingernails.
Make sure you choose healthy seeds that are not abnormally shaped, small or damaged. Choose seeds from plants with special qualities (high yield, better during hot weather, etc.) By only choosing the best seeds from your crop, you are making crop improvements year to year.
Diversifying and finding seeds with special qualities make crops less vulnerable to disease, pests and unusual weather conditions. Sometimes, having identical crop varieties growing will result in a crop failure. There will be times when you will have crop failures. This is due to the purchase of seeding from companies that do not diversify their seeds. They will produce similar plants and tend to be vulnerable to bad elements (weather, insects, and disease).
At this point it is important to reiterate the threat posed to you, the individual grower and seed preserver by large seed companies. Not only do they create inferior seed to the heirloom variety that you will be using, but their patents can endanger you as well. Worst of all, these companies employ industrial spies and military tactics in enforcing their patents. For example, the so-called Monsanto Police has had farmers arrested and harassed for ridiculous reasons.
One example is that of a farmer who was NOT using Monsanto seeds. His neighbor, however, was using Monsanto seeds. On the cusp of the two adjoining properties a wind gust blew some of the neighbor’s seeding on to our farmer friend’s property. Monsanto industrial spies entered his property and took soil samples from his crops.
The bit of Monsanto seeding that had been blown over by the wind had begun to sprout. Since Monsanto’s Genetically Modified seeds can be analyzed with computers, our farmer friend’s soil samples came back positive for Monsanto strains. He was ordered to torch his entire plant crop, because a few Monsanto seeds had wandered over onto his land. Needless to say, the financial loss and the aggravation were huge. Do not let this sort of thing happen to you. Stay away from GMOs and big company seed.