It is almost time to think about the end of the season cleanup sweep around the landscape. I know, it seems kind of sad. We never want the growing season to end. We still have a few weeks before a hard frost puts our plants into dormancy, so this makes the next few weeks crucial if you want to save a few things for next year by gathering seeds.
Vegetable gardeners can save peppers, tomatoes, squash, and beans. Make sure to pick your best and strongest plants for seed saving. Their qualities are worth carrying over into another season. That is also why heirloom varieties are so popular. They have a proven track record that is usually decades long.
Cottage gardeners should save heliotropes and cosmos seeds. Flowers like zinnias, hybiscus and coneflower are good candidates for seed saving. Hybrid plants are another story. Hybrids are plants that come from two different parents to produce the plant that is growing in your garden now. They may have been pollinated by another plant, so you won’t get the same results next year.
This is where it gets complicated. Gourds are a good example of cross-pollination. Mini pumpkins growing next to a turbin squash will become a mixed version of themselves. This is simply because bees and the wind will share the pollen. If you save their seeds, you might come up with a combination of the two next year.
Hand pick these
The late harvest weeks are a good time to cruise around the garden and look for seeds to save. Wait until the seeds have matured, then shake or drop them onto a piece of paper or light colored dish or saucer. Separate the seeds from the other debris and let them dry for about a week in a warm dry place. Once they are completely dry, label them with the name of the plant, color of bloom and time of year they will flower or bear fruit.
Store them in glass jars until next spring or even in the refrigerator. I have saved seeds in envelopes and stuck them in a kitchen drawer for the winter. But the reliability of their germination was spotty and I think a a few of the envelopes got tossed out when I was cleaning the junk drawer. Oops.
Before you go through all of the effort to start your seeds in the early spring, do a little science trick. I like to do the standard paper towel trick with the kids. Dampen one piece of paper towel and put a couple seeds on the wet area. Put the moist towel in a sealed plastic bag and leave it in a warm dark place.
If the seeds are still living, they will start sprouting in a few days. If you don’t see a sign of sprouting in a week or two, you can toss the seeds in the ground and cross your fingers.
Contact Kelly Heidbreder at firstname.lastname@example.org