My apartment is full of all sorts of goodies of intrigue this time of year. At the moment, I have a bunch of parsley that I let go to seed drying, some brassica seed ready to be stored and two sheet pans full of flower heads waiting to be picked over. I'm in full swing of seed-saving, a project most home gardeners seldom think to do. Why spend $2.50 on a pack of cosmos AGAIN next year, when you have hundreds of seeds at your fingertips? Saving seed is not only economical, it's a good self-education on a plants biology. (That was way garden geeky, I know) Some tips for seed saving:
- Beans - if you've left some peas and beans on the vine too long, leave them be and let them turn brown and dry. Remove the seeds (ie the actual bean or pea) from the pod, and store in your freezer for an hour before bagging up and labeling. Why freeze them? Some farmer friends told me once to do it.......and so I do. This is also how you dry soup beans.
- Lettuces - If you let lettuces bolt and flower (and I know you do!), they will eventually grow little pods full of seeds. It's a beautiful thing, and people are always surprised to see it. Give it a go with some of your lettuce this fall. To save seed, cut off the stalk just before the pods start to dry. Hang the stalks to dry, and once the pods are brown and dry, you can rub them between your palms to release the seed.
- Flowers - pretty simple here. Dead head your plant, and instead of tossing the head, save it for seed! I always leave my flowers out on a drying rack overnight to be sure that they are, in fact, dry. Be careful when you first take them in to the house, as they may have little teeny bugs inside. When seeds are completely dry, wrap them up. These also make a great hostess gift, if you get fancy with the wrapping!
Good to know, also, is proper storage. Most seeds will do well in a small paper envelope, stored in a cool place. A garage or cellar is the perfect place. Finally, all seeds have variable viability, meaning that some seed keep for years, and some won't last too long. I could go on for days on how to check germination rates and what crop stores longer than others.........but that's a conversation for another day.