Resolutions 2016 Follow up – Saving seeds

April has dawned and most of us have probably forgotten how to correctly spell the word ‘Resolution’ by now. It’s the same pattern every year, but at the cusp of the change of year we all jump on the joyride that is ‘New Year Resolutions’. It gives us a sense of purpose, a sense of hope that the next year will be better than the last. I wish we worked more towards keeping our resolutions. This year I decided to chronicle my gardening resolutions here on my blog so that I have ready access to them and I can measure my performance against them.

You can read about my resolutions and my first steps in this post. I have worked decently well towards each of them, I think. I have grown my own tomato plants from seed, which are now flowering. I have reused some old glasses as tiny terrariums for succulents (see this) and have now painted a spare colander in which I will shortly plant a container garden as soon as I have enough plants. I have brought new plants and bought some seeds to bring in more seasonal variety, more will be done once summers advance upon us in full swing. Each of the above is a separate and long discussion in itself, and today I’m going to talk about seed saving.

This year, I have saved seeds from many of my flowering plants such as Aparajita, Sadabahar, Dianthus,  Morning Glory, Lilies and Calendula. Some of them are perennials so it might have been unnecessary, but I felt it was needed for me to get a hang of it. It is quite easy once you know what to do (isn’t everything?) but I felt a little daunted in the beginning; so I decided to take you through the process of seed saving from your annuals so that you can regrow them in season at no extra cost. You can use this for perennials if you need to multiply your plants.

I’m using Calendula as my example, because in the beginning I had no clue what the seeds even looked like *hides behind counter in shame* 😀 But when there’s Google to the rescue, why fear? Anyway, let’s get down to business now.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

The Basic Principle:

The basic principle is pollination. Your flowers have male and female parts, and the pollen from the male part travels to the female part through wind, water or pollinators such as bees, wasps, butterflies and birds. It is important to have many bright coloured flowers in your garden to attract pollinators because your entire garden reaps the benefits. The pollinators come looking for flower nectar and in return complete your pollination. As the flower dies, its petals fall off but you will notice the base of the flower (the ovary) fattening and gradually becoming a fruit. Do NOT deadhead or remove spent flowers if you want seeds.

In the pictures below you can see some insects working as pollinators for plants in my garden:

Before you take the first step:

It’s easier said than done, though. You need to know when to harvest the fruit. In most cases, if harvested prematurely the seed is of no use. As a rule of thumb, the fruit should ripen and dry up before you harvest. Anything that is green will rot and decompose, in order to preserve seeds they must be naturally dry. However, in some cases, mostly in case of pods, you cannot leave them for too long or else the pod will burst and disperse the seeds. Pods are designed that way, to keep seeds safe until needed and burst when they’re ready. A little trial and error, a few mistakes and Google should collectively prepare you in time.

Execution:

You must remember my vibrantly fiery orange Calendula blooms. When I learned it was an annual and the plant would die in torrid summers, I decided to harvest seeds.

Once the blooms started getting smaller (they usually do when the season is getting over) I left the last few to become fruits. The ovaries fattened up and the petals gradually shrivelled.

I left them to dry. Calendula also drops its seeds at the slightest movement once they’re ready, so you’ve to be careful and harvest them before that moment. I’d advise cutting the flowers/fruits a couple of days before complete drying and drying the rest on a newspaper. I used a small steel bowl (or katori as we Indians call it) to collect my seeds.

At this point I did not know which part was actually the seeds so I collected everything. I then left the contents to dry for about a week before I went about preserving the seeds. And yes, I needed to find out what the seeds looked like 😀

A simple Google search told me that these comma shaped thingies were the seeds. By then I had a good mixture of dried petals and seeds in my bowl.

Preserving the seeds:

I could go for the tedious process of hand-picking seeds out of the mixture or winnowing them to separate the heavy seeds from the lighter husk, which would result in some loss of seeds. I decided to do neither and preserve the mixture. The petals were dry enough to preserve without rotting, and when I sow the seeds in September; they will decompose in the soil and act as manure. Do this ONLY if you’re confident that your petals are dry, otherwise invest some time in separating them (or be smarter than me and find out which part of the whole thing is the damn seed 😛 )

I made some fresh paper envelopes as shown in my resolutions post. Packed and sealed away for use after 6 months! I have done the same with other plants too, some for my need and some just for practice.

I then placed the smaller envelopes of my own saved seeds and the bought seeds in larger resealable bags and labelled them. I’m saving them at ambient temperature. But if you live somewhere very hot and humid it’ll be safer to refrigerate (Do NOT freeze!) them.

By now, I think I know how to go about it. If at any stage you feel hesitant or lost, remember that it’s natural and you’ll learn. If you feel I can help, feel free to drop me a line in the comments or on my Facebook page The Vibgyor Chronicles! Until we meet again, take care and keep gardening!

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