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Collecting and Saving Seeds
August 30, 2010

We can say good by to August and for some of us, it also spells the end of summer, even if it is still 90 degrees outside.

Here in Michigan, a law was passed a couple of years ago that 'Public schools couldn't open till after Labor Day'.

This allows one more week for the 'Tourist Industry' to make hay.

Private schools will start this week, but the public systems around here wont start until September 7th.

It looks like the kids will miss the heat wave this year.

This past week brought some relief temperature wise.

It was nice to sleep with the windows open and walks with the fur kids were enjoyable.

Still, I'm not ready to throw in the summer towel, there is way too much to do and enjoy.

We need rain in a bad way.

I can water, but many farmers rely on 'Nature'.

The natural world is also showing the stress, as many plants are drooping and will soon drop foliage if we don't get some relief soon.

The picture of the goldenrod and Red twig dogwood was taken Sunday afternoon, notice the serious stress, especially on the bushes.

'Grand Baby Girl' is doing well, but mom is having difficulties.

Tearing from end to end and the loss of blood has caused a few issues, so Karen is spending more time with our daughter and grand kids.

For now, I am 'Chief Cook and Suzie Home Maker'.

I am glad I can help, but will be happier when I can hand over the reigns to Karen.

Hats off to all homemakers.

Many species of birds are forming large groups as migration for them draws near.

This past week, I watched flocks of Red-winged blackbirds, Brown-headed cowbirds, Grackles and similar birds stream into the marshes nearby.

For more than 25 minutes I watched them stream in from one direction.

Hundreds and even thousands of like birds heading for the marsh to roost.

This was near sunset and it happens on a nightly basis.

You may notice flocks of starlings and sparrows gleaning in fields and road sides.

September is also the time of year when I boost up my hummingbird feeders.

Now, some experts may disagree with me, but I believe it helps to fatten them up for the long trip South and North and here is why.

According to the "Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center", the average nectar or sugar content in flowers that attract hummers is 26%.

That's the average, some flowers have less while others can have nectar contents up to 50%.

Hummingbird sugar water is typically 4 parts water to 1 part sugar gives us a content of 21% to 22% sugar.

Possibly close to the 26% average in flowers, but is it enough?

1 parts to 3 is even closer and more attractive for birds that need to gain weight in a hurry.

Combine that with the fact that many flowers have a higher content and attract protein rich insects, and my hummers are off to a good start.

You can Learn More on Feeding Hummingbirds.

Hummers need to gain weight, not visit simply visit my feeders more often.

Yes, the feeding frenzy has begun.

The first of the month also means it is a good time to clean and sanitize all of your feeders and water sources.

A good cleaning should be on your things to do list at least once a month and I find the first of a month always helps as a reminder.

Do you notice any butterfly dances?

These are part of the courtship and mating rituals.

Butterflies are always a joy to watch.

September also kicks seed saving into high gear.

I understand that many of you are true experts at seed collecting and saving and could teach me a thing or two, but this article is primarily for the novice or the person that may want to start this interesting hobby.

Today's Topic is on 'Collecting and Saving Seeds'.


As late summer and fall weather spells changes in many of our gardens, consider seed saving.

You may even encourage your kids or grand kids to become savvy seed savers by identifying and gathering their own gems from the garden or wild.

You may teach kids where some of their food comes from and its humble, yet miraculous beginning as a simple seed.

Split open a bean seed and show a child the dormant embryo or what will become a plant full of beans next year.

Yes, tiny dormant leaves are visable for you and your kids to discover.

How amazing that this can remain dormant until the right conditions are there to bring forth life.

Seed saving isn't just a fall activity however, you can harvest and save seeds virtually year round, but late summer and fall is the main time to do so.

Why bother you may ask?

Saving seeds can be economical (you might generate hundreds from just one plant) and inspire others (especially young people) to explore, firsthand, plants' life cycles and clever adaptations for housing and dispersing seeds.

Your young growers and adults can cultivate connections with others by packaging their unique seeds for gifts or sale, or swap seeds and experiences with students and friends in other growing classrooms.

Think of the other skills used when seed saving?

Math, economics, language arts, science and more can come to life when you and others get into saving seeds.

As stewards, you might also delve into some of the historical and ecological reasons people today save seeds.

Be sure to notice some of the unique shaped seeds and pods you may have, like the Datura (Moonflower) pictured to your right.

With the growth of commercial seed companies during the last century, new varieties were created, but many old ones vanished.

These lost strains had qualities that people savored and contained a wealth of potentially valuable genetic information.

You might want to learn about, and perhaps join the growing movement of gardeners and farmers committed to preserving biodiversity and living history by growing and saving "heirloom" seeds.

If this is your first time saving seeds, start out with some easy plants that flawlessly produce seeds without any intervention.

Annuals such as cosmos, marigolds, pansies, zinnias and many others are some of the easiest.

For many flowers like zinnia and sunflower, it isn't the colored petals that produce seeds, It is the scores and even hundreds of little flowers within the petals that are the real flowers or seed producer.

(Notice the little blooms wthin the flower head.)

Collect seeds from the highest quality and healthiest plants. A good specimen is disease and pest free, has bright foliage and flowers, and grows vigorously.

Under usual circumstances snipping flower heads off after they are spent (deadheading) is crucial to encouraging a plant to continue producing new flowers.

To save seed, leave the flowers on the stem after the flower dies off instead. That way, the plant will start putting its resources into producing seed instead of new flowers.

Be aware that if you want cross-pollination to occur in your garden, you need to make your garden is favorable to pollinating insects or be prepared to do all the pollinating yourself.

Grow plants nearby that attract pollinators–butterfly bush, bee balm, salvia, hyssop are a few, and avoid using chemical sprays that will kill all insects both harmful and beneficial.

Before you decide to save the seeds from a particular plant you will need to know whether they are Open-pollinated, Heirloom or Hybrid.

Open-pollinated plants are those pollinated–naturally or through human intervention–by the same species of plant.

Heirlooms are older plant varieties that have maintained relatively unchanged in a particular region for several generations, and all are open-pollinated.

Hybrids are plants that have been cross-pollinated using two different species of the same genus of plant.

They are bred professionally under controlled conditions, to produce certain desirable traits.

Don't expect the same results from Hybrids.

Indeed, some seeds may be sterile.

One caveat: be advised that saving seeds of some patented cultivars may be illegal, but not too much of an issue here (I'm not the seed police) , until you attempt to sell seeds or the plants.

Gathering Seeds:

Most garden seeds either mature dry in pods (beans) or capsules, flowers, or fleshy fruits (tomatoes, squash, cucumbers).

Notice the ripening seeds within the Red salvia, these are a simple seed to harvest

The ideal time for gathering seeds varies from crop to crop.

Melon seeds, for instance, are mature when the fruits are ready to eat, but squash and cukes should be left on the plant for weeks after you'd normally eat them.

Generally, let vegetable garden seeds dry on the plant as long as possible.

If annual and perennial flowers and herbs (including wild ones) intrigue you, you may need to look even more carefully for signs that seeds are ripe.

Withering and drooping flowers indicate that their job of attracting pollinators is done and that seeds are beginning to form.

Flower stalks that have dried and turned brown or seedpods that have turned from green to dark color are good indicators that seeds are mature.

If you hear a rattle or if seeds fall when they tap lightly on flower stalks, it's time to harvest.

Try to harvest seeds on a sunny day, once the dew has evaporated, and remove all pulp and fiber from their surfaces.

Certain seeds like columbine and petunia, will scatter when the seed head is dry or lose seeds gradually as they ripen.

You can shake their stalks every few days over a paper bag to collect the ripe seed before it's lost.

Pick off or cut off the seed pods before they are fully ripe or brown.

Some pods like hibiscus and datura, will gradually split open as they ripen.

Lupine, beans and sweet peas may rattle when ready.

With some experience, you will know when to harvest stalks and seeds before they are ripe.

This way you get your share and the choice seeds as well.

Drying and Storing Seeds:

Before storing seeds, you'll need to make sure that they are completely dry by spreading them out on a flat surface (e.g., a screen or tray) in a dry, airy place.

(Daylily seeds and pod).

Seeds that are borne in fleshy fruits, such as tomatoes, should be rinsed or sit in water for several days and left to ferment before being spread out to dry.

Seeds that are borne on capsules or flowers may need to be separated from the chaff (seed covering and other debris) before storage. You can do this by tossing seeds lightly on a screen or tray and blowing or letting a breeze remove the lighter debris.

Once seeds are dry, put them in envelopes and then in small glass jars (such as baby food containers) with tight lids, and label them.

Some people prefer using plastic bags or just glass jars, which work fine if the seeds are absolutely dry.

Store seeds where it's cool, dark, and dry.

A refrigerator, or similar location is fine.

If your seeds are stored properly, they should last at least two to three years, if not longer, depending on the plant types. (Onion and corn seeds only remain viable for a year.)

Once you've tried some basic seed saving, you will want to go a step further and find out what the seed's needs are before you plant them and when and how to plant your seeds.

Some species of seed have certain requirements before they will germinate and grow.

Does it need to be scarred or refrigerated?

When and for how long?

This process is called stratification or to stratify your seeds.


Stratification is the process of pretreating seeds to simulate natural winter conditions that a seed must endure before germination.

(Liatris seed stalk.)

Many seed species undergo an embryonic dormancy phase, and generally will not sprout until this dormancy is broken.

The time taken to stratify seeds depends on species and conditions; though in many cases two months is sufficient.

Some will use winter sowing as the stratification time (more on this topic at a later date).

You can find more on on Stratification at the bottom of the Seed Saving Web Page

Well, that about does it for this week and it is time to fly.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

Beauty, truth, friendship, love, creation, these are the great values of life. We can't prove them, or explain them, yet they are the most stable things in our lives.

Jesse Herman Holmes

A nice little quote from Mr. Holmes, but I'm afarid I must disagree with him to some degree.

Maybe I can't explain beauty, but I sure know beauty when I see it (in the eye of the beholder).

Truth and friendship may be a bit more difficult to explain away, but I know who my true friends are and truth plays a huge roll.

Love, how do you explain love?

Love is a choice.

Love is many things

I see love everyday.

I see love in my family,

I see love everytime I look at another person or creation.

You see, "God Is Love".

And everything we see, touch, smell, etc. is because we are so loved.

Prove it????????

I see it everyday, don't you?.

Beauty, truth, friendship, love, creation.

All are words that make up our Creator?

What other proof do you need.

Now smile and share with others.

Until next time my friend.

God Bless.

4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10. but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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