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Tip: Save the seeds




Save the Seeds!

Add another element to gardening-and reap the rewards next year.
For many of us, fall signals the end of backyard gardening as temperatures drop and colorful flowers lose their luster.
But for some gardeners, fall marks the exciting start of yet another gardening cycle-saving seeds produced by the plants they nurtured all season
Seeds used to be a very valuable commodity for trading; they were among the important possessions that pioneers brought with them as they headed west. Seed saving is a rewarding legacy we should try to keep alive.
To rekindle this ancient art, however, you may have to change a few of your gardening habits. For instance, you’ll have to stop deadheading your fading flowers late in the season because cutting off the spent blooms usually removes the seedpods.
Also, you shouldn’t plant hybrid varieties of flowers. Seeds from hybrid plants won’t produce the exact same plant. Instead, in a sort of genetic grab-bag effect, the seeds will produce plants with a wild mix of traits from the parent plants.
Moreover, don’t save seeds if you planted different-colored blooms of the same variety in one area (like a bed of various-colored geraniums). After a few seasons of saving seeds from those flowers, they’ll eventually produce plants with unattractive, muddy-colored blooms, thanks to cross-pollination.
“This will happen even if, for example, you save just the seeds from lavender-colored blooms in a bed of multicolored zinnias,” Jan notes. Eventually, you’ll have plant varieties with the same-colored blooms.
One other thing to consider: If you have more than one variety of the same flower in your yard, don’t expect to save the seeds and grow the exact same plants next year. The varieties will likely cross-pollinate each other. Even if you grow only one variety of, say, petunias, a different variety grown by a neighbor could still cross-pollinate with yours. Be alert!

Handpick Your Favorites
From which plants should you harvest seeds? Select plants whose characteristics you like—maybe some bloom early, are more resistant to disease, have longer-lasting blooms or bloom later in the season.
Almost all flowers produce seedpods after their flowers fade. The pods usually form at the base of the flower.
Flowers disperse these seeds in a variety of ways. Some flowers such as California poppies and pansies have seedpods that burst open. Others, like dandelions, have little “umbrellas” that float away in the wind. Plants in the allium family simply open their seed pockets and let the wind shake out the seeds. Read gardening books and pay attention to your flowers to learn what method they use.
When harvesting seeds, be certain they’re fully mature. Each variety is different, so watch the pods closely. Usually, they’ll become brown and brittle as the seeds reach maturity.
But this isn’t always true. In varieties with seedpods that spring open, collect the seeds just before the pods burst. The seeds may seem immature, but they’ll continue to mature after harvesting.





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