I'm excited to have Kathy Jentz, editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, as a guest blogger today. Kathy's article about collecting seeds for swapping, is a favorite topic of mine. Read on and enjoy!!
Get Free Plants to Grow and Share by Seed SavingBy Kathy Jentz
Another reason to collect seeds is to ensure the propagation of heirloom varieties and rare, native plants that are not available through other means. Commercial growers and catalogs will often only carry the most popular plants and seeds. By collecting seeds from particular flowers and edibles, you are safe-guarding the future of these species. You are guaranteeing we will have a wide variety of genetic diversity in our future and not just the current “top growers.”
The final reason to collect seeds is to trade them. You may have 100s of Cleome seeds and another gardener has 100s of Poppy seeds. Why not trade a few hundred with each other? Again, you are getting new plants for free or close to it. Seed trading is a whole world unto itself. There are online groups, pen pal lists, and clubs for seed swapping.
Washington Gardener Seed Swap, January 29, 2011This January, DC area gardeners will have the opportunity to meet up and swap seeds in person. Washington Gardener magazine is holdings its 6th Annual Seed Exchange on Saturday, January 29, 2011 from 12:30 – 4:00 p.m. at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. The Seed Exchange will include seed swapping, door prizes, planting tips, and gardening workshops by local garden experts. Details will be online soon at www.WashingtonGardener.com
Seed collecting is easy. Just wait until the end of the growing season when your current flowers form seedpods. Check on them every few days. They are ready when the pods are dry, brittle, and just ready to open. Don’t wait too late or they’ll break open on their own and cast their seeds to the wind. Pick a day with little breeze and no rain. Go out in mid-morning, after the sun has dried out the air and dewdrops from the leaves. Take a piece of paper and put it under the seed heads then shake them gently. Be sure the seeds are thoroughly dry before you put them in tightly closed jars or zipper-closed baggies. Label them right away and store them in a cool, dark, and dry place.
That last step is the most important. Label them with the date and variety. Be specific as possible. Next spring you’ll be very glad you did – as many seeds look alike. The date is important as you will want to use up your seeds the next growing season or two.
A side note on seed collecting: not all plants can be propagated from seed. Many plants that you buy are hybrids or sterile. If you have hybrid flowers and vegetables, they may produce seeds. However, the seeds will often not produce offspring that is “true” to the parent plants. In other words, the seeds from hybrids are often a different variety than the plant you originally purchased and they are often inferior in quality.
A simple way to get started is to collect seeds from your common annual flowers that open-pollinate: zinnias, marigolds, forget-me-nots, four-o-clocks, cosmos, cleome, and sunflowers. Then, as your gardening skills grow, move on to perennials and biennials.
So take a few minutes this harvest season to collect those plant seeds and you’ll be all set next spring for a bountiful crop of new blooms.
** Kathy is saving seeds this weekend from her hollyhocks which came to her garden from her grandmother’s seed collecting. Kathy Jentz is Editor of Washington Gardener Magazine, the only gardening publication published specifically for the local metro area — zones 6-7 — Washington DC and its suburbs. You can follow Washington Gardener on Twitter or follow their blog or Facebook page.