The benefits of collecting vegetable and flower seeds
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Fall is a beautiful time of year. The leaves are changing colors and harvest season is upon us. This is the perfect time of year to get out and collect your favorite seeds from your favorite flowers and vegetables for next year’s garden. Collecting seeds is a simple, cost-effective way to ensure beautiful blooms next year.
You can collect flower seeds several times throughout the summer, but the best time is late summer and early fall, after the flowers start to fade at the close of the season. Throughout the summer I deadhead my annual and perennial flowers to encourage new flower growth. During the fall, I let those flowers dry up on the plant. Once they have dried up, I cut the seedpods off the plant with sharp gardening scissors. And place them in a paper bag labeled with the plant name, the date, and flower color. I will place the bag in a sunny spot where it will continue to dry for another week. Spread out a newspaper and start rubbing the seedpod or seed head between your fingers. This will break loose the seeds and separate them from the husk. The husk can be thrown away and the seed should be placed in an envelope for next spring. Make sure to label the envelope with the name and color of the flower.
For vegetables, some of the easiest seeds to save come from peppers, peas, beans, tomatoes, and eggplants. To collect the pepper seeds, make sure to select a mature pepper, cut it open and remove the seeds. Allow them to dry on a paper towel for a week, then place in an envelope and label the variety. Allow your beans and peas to dry completely on the plant, then remove the seeds from the pods, label, and place in an envelope. The tomatoes need to be mature. The seeds will have a mucous membrane around them. Remove the seeds and soak them in water for a week. Then add more water and rinse through a screen, a colander will work great. Once the seeds are rinsed off, place them on a paper towel and let dry for a week, label, and store in an envelope.
Store your seed envelopes in a cool dry place. Heat and humidity can increase the likelihood of bacterial or fungal growth. To promote seed germination, seeds need to go through a process called stratification. Stratification is when seeds go through a period of cold followed by an increase in temperature. This can be achieved by storing your seeds in a refrigerator over the winter. When spring comes, remove the seeds from the refrigerator and prepare for planting.
Seed collecting is fun, but you don’t always get a replica of the parent plant. Seeds from hybrid plants will usually not produce a plant with the same characteristics and should be avoided. So, look for heritage (heirloom), open-pollinated species that are typically self-pollinated (tomato, pepper, bean, pea) for your seed collecting efforts. Many ornamental perennial and annual flowers are hybrids, which can make it interesting to see what you get the following year. Squash plants that are anywhere near other squash plants will readily cross-pollinate and produce something different from the parent plant fruit.