Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

Cut and Come Again

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Despite the fact that it's only the end of the second week of July, seed saving starts now.  It is in my mind to push all that to fall, when so many pods are ripening and rattling with cooler, drier temperatures.  Not now, in muggy July with so much still happening and flowers still going off, fruits and veg starting to really come on.  But this picture below is seed heads of Nigella mixed with Geranium 'Rozanne' in the Summit Street Community Garden that were in bloom five weeks ago.

A partial list of what we harvested this season so far include Consolida/larkspur, Lunaria/money plant (a biennial), poppies (Shirley, California, somniferum), Aqualegia/columbine (a perennial), Linum/flax (another perennial), Digitalis/foxglove (another biennial).

My very partial harvest as of 7/10/08;


I cut just a few to get started and laid them out on large paper coffee filters.  We had a good but brief soaking of rain on Wednesday night so the seed pods were all a bit damp.  Opening up pods and letting the seed spill out onto the filters helps to keep them in one place and easily folded up to move or protect from strong breezes or drafts that could send them flying.  The filters also absorbs the excess moisture. 

I cut everything this morning and took it inside to dry out in the dehydrated, air conditioned office of the gardening department.  They'll spend the weekend here, curing.  Getting the seed really dry and separate from bits of foliage and chaff prevents any molds or mildew from growing and contaminating the seed.

I'm storing them in glassine envelopes.  We're going to have a plant sale this fall at the garden and we thought we could sell packets of seed as well.  Visitors always want seeds, so now they can pay for them and the garden benefits from it's own fecundity. 

While I keep harvesting and processing, I temporarily store the seed with a dried pod in the bag for an easy i.d. 
Poppy seed on the left, larkspur seed drying on the right.

Once things have been parsed out, the envelopes will be sealed with an adhesive label that will list the name and time of year to sow the seed.  For the most part, these seeds can be sprinkled over the soil surface after everything has been cut down in the fall and wet, cold winter temps have begun.  For long term storage of seed, place sealed packets in a zip-type bag and, if you want to keep them all in one spot, that bag can go into a small plastic bin which then goes in the fridge.  This cool, dry environment keeps the seeds viable and fresh until you want to use them.

For the complete low down on seed saving, check out Carole Turner's book.  It will likely answer all your questions and inspire you to recycle...your garden seeds.

Comments (1)

  • Thank you for the link to Carole, I will have to get her book.
    I really enjoy collecting seeds from the garden as well. Usually I will let all my lettuce and Vietnamese herbs bolt, then dry out. Then I cut the branches and invert them in a plastic bag and shake the seeds off the pods and branches.I then wrap them in paper. That's an easy way for me to collect the seeds without losing any!
    Sometimes if I don't get to the seeds soon enough, the wind and birds will disperse my seeds throughout the garden. It's such a pleasant surprise to see herbs and lettuce pop up in different parts of the garden. Thanks nature!

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