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Saving seeds

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Has your garden gone to seed? Don’t despair – collect those seeds for next year or just bring them inside to enjoy.

If you have decided not to replant another round of Fall/Winter veggies and the old ones are bolting, consider letting them mature to seed and collecting for next years sowing.

While it is very easy and fun to save seeds there are a few challenges. Hybrid plants have great qualities like disease resilience and productivity but their seed is often sterile or won’t produce offspring true to the parent plant so it is better to not save seeds from hybrids, choose heirlooms instead.

Another issue that can arise in saving seeds is that some plant flowers are open pollinated which means they can cross with other plants in their family and their offspring are a bit of a wildcard. These plants include broccoli, basil, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, chard, celery, kale, melon, mustard, onion, parsley, squash and spinach. The good news is that some of our favorite plants will not automatically cross pollinate and so are very easy to save seeds – peas, beans, tomatoes and peppers are ideal.

Most seed heads will develop a pithy outer covering, look for that substance to begin disappearing, as the seeds start to emerge it it time to harvest. Remember that most of the drying process should be done on the plant to be sure the seeds have fully developed.

Peas and beans:
Allow the pods to remain on the vines until they brown and dry. Pick and take indoors to continue drying in an open mason jar for two more weeks.

Peppers:
Pick a robust very ripe pepper, bring inside and allow the fruit to whither and begin to dry (about a week). Scoop out the pith, remove seed, spread over paper in a cool dry place for 1 to 2 weeks.

Tomatoes:
Choose a beautiful tomato (you want the healthiest one you can find), scoop out the seeds and surrounding goo, place in a grass jar with a little water. You will allow this mixture to ferment for about 5 days after which the good seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar. Dry them off and spread over paper to dry for 1 to 2 weeks.

And don’t forget your flowers too – there are so many blooms that produce lots of seeds that you can simply let fall to produce drifts of flowers in seasons to come or you can collect them and help them along. Poppies, columbine and daisies, hellebore, sunflowers, feverfew, zinnias, cosmos, coreopsis, and so many more!

Once you have dry seeds to store place them in small paper bags and be sure to label them. Put dried seeds in the freezer for two days to kill any pests that may piggyback. They can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place or in the refrigerator. If you choose the fridge it is wise to include a packet of dry milk or silica in order to keep them moisture free.

 
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