Harvesting Seeds From Your Garden

Harvesting Seeds From Your Garden
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Some of the seeds in your garden are edible, others used for next spring's planting. In days ago, when the pioneers gathered the last vegetables, they were concerned about harvesting seeds to use the following season.
Nowadays, the majority of gardeners simply purchase their seeds. However, some may want to save seeds and experience gardening the way of their ancestors.

Among those that are easy to save for next year's planting are radish, mustard, spinach, lettuce, endive, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkin, peas, beans, peppers, French marigolds, and many herbs.

Harvesting Steps

When harvesting seeds, your aim is to get the best ones possible. So you should save the seeds from the best plant, not necessarily from the best fruit. It's said that with leafy plants, such as lettuce, you should collect the seeds from the plants that take the longest to go to seed. With root plants, choose those which bolt first (flower or produce seeds prematurely).

With radishes and leafy plants, let the seed stalk form. Then cut the entire stalk when it and the seed pods are brown and dry. Place the stalks in a plastic or large paper bag and beat them lightly with a stick to break the pods. Pour the seeds from the bag and pick out any remaining chaff.

Some Left on the Vine

Vegetables such as cucumbers, melons, squash, and tomatoes should be left on the vine until they are overripe, for best results. Then separate the seeds from the pulp; wash them thoroughly until clean. Dry in the sun.

Some gardeners consider best results with Italian tomatoes come from placing the overripe tomatoes under hay mulch in the spots in your garden where you want them to grow the following year. Then when spring arrives, protect the seedlings until the danger of the last frost has passed.

Let seed peppers ripen thoroughly before being picked. Sweet and hot peppers will cross, so these plants should be separated by at least 1/2 feet if you're growing them from seed.

Seeds from Herbs

Many herbs seed readily. It generally saves you money if you grow your own, for herb seeds are fairly expensive for the few you need to grow a small number of plants. With dill, fennel, parsley, chives, and those with noticeably large seed heads, you keep checking the heads and cut them just as the seeds are getting ready to scatter.

Then place them in paper bags and let them dry thoroughly before you store them.

Flower Seeds

French marigolds have seeds that are easy to harvest. Pick the flower heads when they are beginning to fade. Then dry the flowers and pull them apart when completely dried. One flower should produce enough seeds for your whole bed of marigolds.

Others with individual flowers, like nasturtiums, should be harvested when the flowers fade and seeds form. Dry them a few days before storing.

Packaging & Storing

Make sure you label all the seeds you harvest so you know what you have come planting time. Store them in sealed cans or jars or sealed packets when thoroughly dried.

Keep them in a dry, cool place. Check seeds such as pumpkin, melon, and squash to make sure they aren't being mildewed.

Harvest your seeds and enjoy next spring's planting.

(c)2002 Mary Emma Allen


About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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