Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gathering and Storing Flower Seeds

I'm so far behind this year...but I'm finally busy gathering in my seed for next year.


I grow marigolds and zinnia from seed every year; I use seed I collected from the year before.  I'm on my 26th generation of seeds, I think.  But I've been so busy this year, I haven't gotten any so far.  Well, it's time to get busy and check this off the list.

If you have any marigolds and/or zinnias, they are some of the easiest seeds to save and start in the spring.

First to the zinnias:  They look great, bright, and stand out in your garden.  But as they grow older, the petals lose their color, and you're left with a brown mound.

Those are your seeds, and you don't want to get rid or the plants before you get to this part!  The more dried-out they are, the better off you are.  So here is a good picture to show you the stages you will see.

Zinnia: colorful, very dry, and drying
The pink zinnia in back is still looking good; the one on the bottom is in the process of drying out; the center one is just about ready for you to pick.

Zinnia seed head

Zinnia seed heads
These last two pictures are what you want in a good zinnia seed head.  It will snap off nicely for you.  I lay it out on newspaper for a day or two to get the moisture out, then put them in paper bags and hang them in the garage.

In the spring, they will be nice and dry - you will be able to take that seed head and twist it, and all the seeds will detach.  (But be careful: in the center of that pile of seeds is a very pointed and sharp receptacle that the seeds are attached to.  Wear gloves.)

The marigolds are even simpler.  They usually last longer into the fall, and the bright yellow and orange color is a favorite of mine.  In this first picture, you see lots of yellow and orange petals, but to the right, you can see one dried brown seed head.  As the flower fades, it wrinkles and browns, and it will actually do all the work for you.

Marigolds in various stages

This next picture shows you what you are looking for: good, dry seed heads.  The one on the right is still yellow, and has a a lot of moisture in it.  The one in the center is ready for you to pick.

Almost ready!

The seed pods will snap off easily when they are dry.  As they get dryer, some will shatter when you touch them, and the seeds will be propelled away (its own way of seeding itself).  The seed pods in the center of this picture are very near that point.

Dried and waiting for you

Lastly, marigold seed heads will also help you out if you let them.  When they have dried out and are ready to seed themselves, they will often bend over, so the seeds can just drop and be spread.

Bent seed head trying to seed itself

I collect the seed pods, lay them out on newspaper for a couple days, and then store in paper bags until spring, hung up in the garage.  You can literally crumble a handful of these in your palm and then spread the seed in the spring.

So store a few for next spring and try it out.  It doesn't take much time, or space, and you'll be happy when those little seeds start sprouting in the spring.

PS  Wet seeds will mold and rot, so the dryer the better.  You can actually take a fully-in-bloom zinnia or marigold and dry it well and get the seeds out, but letting them mature to the dry and brittle stage will help with germination.

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