Easy Tips for Collecting Seeds
So, you’ve spent all spring and summer tending to your plants - watering and fertilizing, transplanting and trimming. Now the season is ending and plants are readying themselves for the colder weather ahead. As you say goodbye to some of your ‘friends’ it may help to know that all is not lost. By collecting seeds you not only save a part of the plant, you give yourself an easy way to get new and fresh starts for your garden next year. Armed with a few guidelines you can easily supply yourself and your friends with an army of great seeds for the following year.
Most gardeners will find that collecting seeds that have already been pollinated is the easiest option. Open-pollination is where nature has done the work for you, allowing the wind, bees and other insects to pollinate your plants. Another other option is called hybridization, where plant breeders pollinate two different plants together to develop a new plant variety with new and improved attributes. While open-pollination will usually create plants just like the original, every so often an unusual plant might occur.
With both types of pollination it is important to allow the seed to mature on the plant as the embryo develops. When ready to harvest, the seeds are either brown or black, most often developing fully about a month after the plant flowers.
Collect seeds during the dry part of the day - somewhere around mid-afternoon. This prevents molds which easily ruin young seeds. Harvesting the seeds can be tricky. Some of your seeds will stay nicely in their pods while others will shoot around like rockets. With experience you will learn the special quirks of the plants you are harvesting. Also note that seeds will mature at different rates on a plant, so you will have several opportunities to collect.
There are a lot of 'shortcut' and 'time-saver' techniques to make seed collecting easier. One option is to tie paper bags over potential seed heads. When the seeds are ready you can simply cut the entire stem.
After collecting your seeds they will need to be sorted and separated. You should spread your seeds on a paper plate and then sift as if panning for gold. By doing this you will separate the extra shaft from the seeds allowing you to keep your seeds cleaner.
It is very important to make sure that your seeds are completely dry before and during storage. One helpful hint is to add a little packet of silica gel to keep the inside of your containers dry once you deposit your seeds. Storage of seeds can be in an envelope, a film canister, or even a jar. Just be sure to label with enough information that you feel is needed for yourself and friends. It is also a good idea to include a harvest date so you can assess the freshness in future seasons.
All that is left now is making sure you keep your seeds in a cool dry place, and waiting patiently for planting season in the early spring.