Save money, save the planet: save seeds!
This is the best time of year to collect seeds from your favourite plants: clean them, sort them and save them for planting next year. For many of the plants in your garden, this is easy and great fun.
Annuals that will reproduce nicely from seed gathered from your garden include zinnias, many marigolds, portulaca (which self-sows at my place!), cosmos, 4 o’clock, euphorbia, some nicotiana, sunflowers and virtually all of the large seeded varieties that are not hybrids. The hybridized annuals that you planted this spring will not reproduce true in colour or growth habit to their parent plant. However, sometimes the results are interesting!
Vegetables that produce well from garden seed include beans, tomatoes, peas: most all ‘large seeded’ plants. The ‘hybrid rule’ mentioned above still applies.
My favourite perennials from garden seed include the native Echinacea, some rudbeckia, Russian Sage, Bee Balm (Monarda) and, once again, most of the large seeded plants that are not hybridized.
What to do:
1. Let them mature. The whole reason – the ONLY reason from the plants’ point of view – that a plant produces a bloom is to produce seed. And the only reason that it produces seed is to reproduce. It is a basic law of nature: plants, like animals, have an inherent need to multiply or, at least, to perpetuate the species.
How do you know when seed is ‘viable’ (will germinate)?
Place a few seeds in a glass of water and let stand over night. The seeds that are floating in the morning are the duds, the ones on the bottom of the glass are the viable ones. You can also do this experiment with pre-moistened paper towel by rolling the seeds up in the towel, keeping it wet for 7 to 10 days and unrolling it to see how many have germinated.
The ‘germination test’ is a good way of determining the % of seeds that will grow and therefore how densely you should sow them come late winter/early spring.
Keep your knees dirty!