Saving Garden Seeds

Saving garden seeds is easy and inexpensive. I began saving seeds in law school as a way to save money.  I bought an organic acorn squash at the local grocery.  I ate the squash and dried the seeds.  Over the summer, I planted the seeds and I harvested 75 squash to take back to school with me.  My supply of squash lasted me the entire school year!

And, saving seeds from plants you love allows you to reproduce your favorite plants over and over again without spending a dime. (Hint* If your plant is a hybrid, plants produced by their seed may look or taste completely different. Look at the plant tag or the seed packet to determine whether your plant is a hybrid.  To reproduce identical plants from seed, use heirloom seeds or plants. )

Flowering Plants

In order to save seeds from a flowering plant you must stop deadheading to allow the flowers to mature into seed heads.   When the flowers shrivel up,  seed heads or seed pods will become evident.  Allow the seed heads or seed pods to mature and dry on the plant. If the seed heads or seed pods are on a plant that will drop its seeds, like petunias, or blow away, like garden thistle, simple place a piece of nylon stocking over the seed pod or seed head and secure it with garden twine  to catch the seeds.

Collecting seeds from a seed head is as simple as snipping the seed head off the flower and shaking or pulling the seeds off .  To collect the seeds from a seed pod, however, you remove the pod from the flower stem, open it, and shake the seeds into a   container. Or, snip the seed pod off the plant and allow it to fall directly into a paper bag. Seal the top of the paper bag and shake it vigorously. This will shake the seeds lose from the seed pod.  Then gather the seeds from the bottom of the bag and place them in a container or envelope. Store in a cool dry area.

If there is moisture remaining on the seeds, such as from dew or  precipitation, allow the seeds to dry completely for a few days to a week in a brown paper bag prior to putting them in a sealed container or envelope.  Or, lay a paper towel or clean cloth on a cookie sheet and place the seeds in a single layer on cookie tray.  Let the seeds dry in a dim, dry, cool area for a week or more before placing the seeds into a container or an envelope.  Finally, label the envelope or container and store in a cool dry place.

 

Vegetables

squash seeds

Seeds from vegetables are generally harvested from the fruit itself, however there are exceptions.   Some of the easiest plants to harvest seeds from is the squash or the pumpkin. Simply cut open the pumpkin or squash and remove the seeds and the pulp.  Next place the seeds and pulp in a kitchen strainer and wash them with cool water.  Continue to rinse under cool water until all the pulp is removed and the seeds are clean. Spread a paper towel or clean cloth on a cookie pan and spread the seeds out in a single layer on the pan careful to remove any small, damaged, or immature seeds. Leave the seeds to dry in a dim, dry, cool place for a week or two.  Then transfer the seeds into a clean jar or envelope. Don’t forget to label your container.

Tomato seeds can be saved using the same process as pumpkin or squash. Simply cut open a tomato and squeeze the seeds and pulp out into a strainer.  Tomato seeds are much tinier than pumpkin seeds so use a strainer with a fine grid.  Rinse them under cool water until the seeds are clean and all the pulp is removed.  Lay the cleaned seeds out on a clean cloth or paper towel and allow to dry for a week or two.  Periodically during the drying process, run your hands over the seeds to separate the seeds into a single layer to dry completely as the seeds tend to stick together when wet. You can also follow a more rigorous process called fermentation for tomato seeds that I found on Permaculture Research Institute website.  I have never tried this method of saving seeds but  I’d love to hear your thoughts about this process if you try it.

Carrots and celery, both of which are Biennials , are among a group of vegetables whose seeds are harvested like those of flowering plants, but are harvested after the second year’s growth.  The tops of these plants flower and set seed after the second year.  To thoroughly dry the seed heads, cut the seed heads from the plant and place the whole seed head in a brown paper bag up to a week to finish drying. When the seed heads are thoroughly dry, shake the bag to release the seeds from the seed heads.  Gather the seeds from the bottom of the bag and place them in an envelope or jar to be kept for planting the following year.

These are just a few suggestions on saving seeds for a few different flowers and vegetables.  If you have questions about saving seeds from specific plants, don’t hesitate to do a quick online search on trusted sites. Saving seeds is easy, it saves money,  and it allows you to reproduce your favorite plants.  But remember, hybrid plants don’t reproduce by seed to create an identical plant, but heirloom seeds do, so try ordering seeds from heirloom seed suppliers like Harvesting History

Good luck and Happy Gardening!

Quote of the Day

“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”

-Gertrude Jekyll, British horticulturalist and writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Harvesting History: A New Plant Catalog With So Much More Than Bulbs!

I opened my mailbox a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised to find that it contained a plant catalog from a new company called Harvesting History. The company specializes in heirloom seeds and bulbs. The tasteful beauty of the catalog itself sent me on a mission to learn more about this wonderful new company dedicated to the plants of old.

For those of you that are new to gardening, the term “heirloom” simply means the plant has been openly pollinated by insects or the wind without mechanical means and that the cultivar is somewhere between at least 50 to 100 years old.  GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are not considered heirloom cultivars no matter the age. Traditionally, heirloom cultivars were considered to be handed down from one generation to the next for many generations.

According to the website, Harvesting History  was created in 2016 by a group of horticultural professionals with the combined experience in excess of 500 years! The company is dedicated to the preservation of heirloom varieties and their history.  The company carries a wide variety of heirloom cultivars including flowers, vegetables, and herbs along with a variety of other classic gardening products. About Harvesting History

Harvesting History’s stunning full color catalog contains a brilliant collection of detailed photographs of the many varieties of bulbs the company has for purchase along with a beautifully crafted narrative describing the history of each plant. A short description of each plant, its hardiness, and growing zones help the gardener choose from the large selection Harvesting History has available for purchase.

The Harvesting History company has piqued my interest.  Their stunning full color catalog and beautifully designed website make it fun and interesting to browse through the many varieties of bulbs, tubers, seeds, and other products they have available for sale. Check it out!  You may find your new favorite!

Happy Gardening!

Quote of the Day

” I continue to be interested in new things that seem old and old things that seem new.”

– Jaquelin T. Robertson, American architect and urban designer

 

 

 

 

Ew! Why Is the Bottom of My Tomato Rotten?

If the tomato is still on the vine and the bottom is black or brown and looks rotten,  it is likely a condition called blossom-end rot. Blossom-end rot is  a calcium deficiency in the plant.  This condition can affect tomatoes but it can also affect peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumber, and melons. Look for the tell-tale signs of black or brown rotten spots on the fruit or vegetable.  If you are experiencing this in your garden, don’t worry, you aren’t alone.  Most gardeners have had to deal with this issue at some point in time.

(Note. Affected fruits and vegetables should be not be consumed and should be discarded.)

What Causes Blossom-end rot?

Blossom-end rot is a condition in which there is a lack of calcium in the plant.  There are several possible causes for this issue to develop including the following:

  1.  The soil lacks calcium.
  2. The calcium in the soil  is plentiful but is chemically bound up and unavailable to your plant.
  3. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen derived from ammonia.
  4. Inconsistent moisture levels.

 What is the solution to Blossom-end rot?

Soil PH.  First check the soil ph. If the ph of the soil is wrong, adding more calcium to the soil won’t help.  Testing kits  that check soil ph can be purchased at most garden stores or online for under $10.00.  Follow the directions on the package to test your soil.  Ideally your soil should have a ph of 6.5 to 6.8.  If the ph is not within this range, certain nutrients, like calcium,  will be chemically bound up and unavailable for absorption. If your test shows a ph higher than 6.8, then your soil is alkaline and you will need to add sulfur to lower the ph.  If the ph is lower than 6.5, then you have acidic soil and you will need to add lime to raise the ph. Lime has the added benefit in that it actually contains calcium that your plants can use.

Lack of Calcium.  Second, if you tested the soil and the soil ph is not the problem, then the problem may be a lack of calcium in the soil. Even though as previously stated, lime contains calcium, if the soil ph is within the 6.5 to 6.8 range, then adding lime will throw off the ph.  In this case, add gypsum.  Gypsum adds calcium and it will not change the soil ph, however, it will add salt so follow the directions on the package.  Too much salt in the soil adds a whole new set of problems to the garden that you don’t want.

For a longer term solution to calcium deficiency in your soil, add bone meal or egg shells to the garden.  Both bone meal and eggs shells are comprised of calcium.  These organic forms of calcium need time to break down into a source that is usable by plants so it may take a year or more before results can be seen.

Fertilizer.  Third, the problem may lie with your fertilizer. Fertilizers with a lot of nitrogen, especially nitrogen derived from ammonia, cause the plant to grow too fast and the plant is not able to absorb enough calcium to keep up with its growth rate.  I always suggest organic fertilizers and compost.  These fertilizers come from natural sources and add nutrients and trace minerals slowly  and in amounts that your plants need for proper growth. Synthetic slow release fertilizers are also a good option as they are easy to apply and they slowly release the nutrients your plants need over the course of the growing season. Synthetic liquid fertilizers must be applied again and again over the growing season, they tend to add salt to the soil, and they also promote unnatural growth in plants so I don’t usually recommend them for in-ground gardens. (Container plants are the exception for synthetic liquid fertilizers.)

Watering.  Finally, make sure that you are keeping your garden consistently moist.  Alternating between wet conditions and then extreme dry conditions may interfere with your plant’s ability to absorb calcium.  This is especially true in potted plants. To keep your garden consistently moist it is important to water your garden adequately, regularly, and in the proper amounts.  Watering will depend on the weather and your soil.  Heavy clay soil tends to hold moisture and sandy soil tends to dry out too quickly by wicking water away. Both types of soils should be amended with generous amounts of compost to add organic matter, improve soil quality, and help maintain moisture levels for healthy vital garden plants.

To keep soil consistently moist, soaker hose works best and is easy to use.  Soaker hose is usually black in color and it’s porous.  The water in the hose slowly drips from the entire length of the hose.  Lay the soaker hose along the length of your plant row and turn the water on for about 20 minutes to slowly water your plants.   This time may need to be adjusted depending on your soil structure.  The ground should be wet several inches down but don’t allow standing water to form that doesn’t soak in within a short period of time.  That means there is too much water. Check the soil every few days.  If the soil looks dry on top and it’s dry if you stick your finger in the ground about 2 inches, then water again.

Sprinklers are commonly used to water gardens.  Sprinklers provide adequate water but they can cause problems with disease, especially fungal issues. If you use a sprinkler, always water your garden in the morning. This allows the plants to dry fully before the afternoon sun hits. Watering your garden in the hot afternoon sun  can cause burns (called sun scald) on your plants. Watering at night is also not recommended as it allows water to sit on the plants for a length of time which encourages disease and rot. Watering in the morning is best and can be made more convenient by the use of timers that can be purchased at garden stores or online.

Blossom-end rot is a condition that is easily controlled if you know why it happens and the step to take to cure it.  Every gardener will deal with this issue at some time.  If it happens to you, throw out the infected fruit, go through the steps to check the cause and apply the appropriate remedy.  In no time at all, you’ll have beautiful tomatoes growing in your garden ready to pick for that amazing evening dish!

Happy Gardening!

 

Quote of the Day

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”  – Brian O’Driscoll