Time to Think about Saving Seeds

Purple pole beans drying on vine

As we experience the last flush of summer vegetables, my mind starts thinking forward to next year and what I will do differently in the garden. I always like to try new varieties of plants because of the amazing assortment I see in the seed catalogs, described in all their poetic detail. But as more and more people have asked me if I’m saving seed from my garden, I have realized that it’s about time my answer was yes. My plants are producing them naturally, so why not take advantage of a free resource instead of composting them and buying more next year? 

My approach is to think about what would need to happen for the plant to reseed naturally. This usually involves staying on the plant until it falls off (because it is dry, or the wind carries it away). Or until the fruit drops off and decomposes (which makes saving tomato seeds a bit tricky!).

I’m starting with the easy things:

  • letting snap bean pods that get too big dry on the vine and shelling them when I pull the plants;
  • clipping the seed heads off of herbs like cilantro, dill and fennel (which can, of course, also be eaten as a spice) and my calendula flowers;
  • when my lettuce, radish and arugula bolts, let it flower and produce seed pods, which can be harvested after they dry out;
  • scattering the seed heads of my gaillardia into bare areas in my perennial garden.
Calendula plant showing flowers and seed heads in two stages of maturing

I’m looking forward to learning more, especially about the nightshades and those crazy biennials, at Sue Trusty’s Seed Collecting and Storing class next week at the Civic Garden Center (Wed Sept 22, 6-8 pm).

-Ryan Mooney-Bullock

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