These garlic chives have gone to seed and it's easy to see the plant is about to drop them. Photos by Doug Oster
I don't know about you, but I miss the garden already. Saving seeds is a great job this time of the year.
While walking through the flower and vegetable garden, it's easy to see that lots of plants have gone to seed. Even though it's been cold, those temperatures won't harm the seeds.
In my garden, there are garlic chives, marigolds, hostas, beans and more which will give up their seed easily.
All we are doing is mimicking nature by grabbing the seeds before the plant discards them.
There's one important thing to consider when saving seeds. There are two basic plant types, hybrid and open pollinated. Hybrid seeds might be sterile and won't produce the same plant, it reverts to a parent. OP seeds will produce something almost identical as the plant which it was saved from.
Sometimes hybrid seeds can sprout and grow something interesting. In the case of the hosta, one of those seeds could create a brand new cultivar. That's what I hope anyway. In the past, my seedlings always look identical to the plant I've saved the seeds from. But every once and a while a sport will sprout which will look completely different.
It's easy enough to see when seeds are ripe for the picking. Examine each species in an effort to harvest seeds just before the plant drops them. Seeds are living, breathing organisms, it's important they are mature. When they are, it insures the seed will have what ti needs to produce a plant next year.
Beans are an easy plant to start with. My favorite pole bean is the heirloom 'Cherokee Trail of Tears.' It was the first heirloom I ever grew, planted almost 30 years ago. I wrote a story about learning about the plant from the late Bob Janca. He started my life long obsession with heirlooms that continues today. Heirlooms can always be saved from year to year. In the case of beans, once they mature, dry and turn brown they are ready to be saved. The whole pod can be stored and then the seeds can be removed when it's time for planting.
I'll gently pick apart the hosta seed pods, dropping the black seeds into a paper bag. For other plants like garlic chives, they can be shaken into a bag or in the case of marigolds, the seed pods themselves can be saved.
Storage might be the most important aspect of seed saving besides maturity. It's imperative the seeds stay dry after being harvested.
After dropping into the paper bag, the seeds are brought inside, allowed to dry and then put into small paper envelopes.
Those envelopes are then put into a glass mason jar. Each one of my jars has silica gel in the bottom to be sure the seeds remain dry. Some gardeners use rice to absorb any moisture.
The jars are stored in the basement where they stay cool and it's dark.
Each species has different requirements for germinating. Some need a period of cold, others need it to be dark and some want light to sprout.
The hostas will be sown in late winter under lights. I'll know what I have as soon as they sprout. It's fun to tell garden visitors "those were started from seed."
I also love to give away seedlings and even the seeds to like minded gardeners.
Take a look around your garden and find some seeds to save, it's fun and you might discover the next great variety.
These hosta seeds are ready to be shaken into a paper bag and saved for the winter.
mature marigold seed pods can be saved too.
'Cherokee Trail of Tears' pole bean is my favorite. These pods are ready to be picked and saved.