Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2004
Regional Report

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One man's junk is another man's treasure. Saving seeds is an economical way to plant, as long as you don't forget where you put them!

Seed-Saving Tips

Harvesting seeds from your garden is an inexpensive way to fund next years harvest, and fall is the perfect time to collect dry seedpods from your favorite flowers and vegetables.

I have been saving seeds for years, mainly because I love getting something for nothing. It's also a nice way to share your garden with family and friends who live in a different location or who like to grow plants from seed. Seeds travel very well through the mail.

Annual lupines, bread-seed poppies and perennial sweet peas should be harvested when the seedpods are brown and the seeds inside dry. Seeds with feathery casings, such as gaillardia and ornamental grasses, should be gathered as soon as you see them beginning to blow around the neighborhood. Clip the entire seed head and save it in an envelope. The individual seeds will separate from the parachute after only a few weeks. Clipping the whole enchilada is much easier than trying to separate each tiny seed.

Seeds that cluster along a stem, such as forget-me-nots and cleomes, can be saved on the stalk until planting time rolls around again next spring. Just make sure the seeds are dry before you harvest so all of the necessary nutrients have been collected and stored.

Once you have gathered your seeds, it's important to save them in paper -- never plastic -- containers. Any remaining moisture will be trapped inside a plastic container and may contribute to fungus disease or rot. Paper envelopes are my favorite seed storage containers. I write the type of seed and the date harvested directly onto the envelope. I even have a file drawer in the garage where I store the prepared envelopes over the winter. Any dry, cool location is perfect.

For large seeds, such as peas and beans, it's best to use some sort of desiccant in the envelope to make sure there is no residual moisture. One tablespoon of powdered milk folded inside a paper towel works perfectly as a desiccant, and it's cheap.

Making Seed Tapes
Another way to save and store seeds is to create your own seed tape. I use strips of newspaper (black and white, never color) and a simple paste made from flour and water to attach the dried seeds to the paper. Place the seeds the proper planting distance apart on the newspaper strip. Write the name of the seed and the date on the paper and store the prepared tape in paper envelopes once the paste has dried. Come planting time next spring, all you have to do is roll out the strips directly onto the planting beds and cover with a light dusting of soil.

Cosmos and sunflowers are two types of flowers that work well on tape. Cucumbers, beets, and other row crops also are good candidates.

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