Advice for a newbie seed saver? :)

conniemcgheeNovember 24, 2009

Hi All! I just discovered this forum today.

I'm a long time gardener and have this year become very interested in plant propagation and seed saving. I want to try winter sowing. :) I've bought a few (five packets or so) from Summerhill, and a few people on the Seed Exchcange have been kind enough to send me seeds.

I have started trying to collect seed from my plants. So far I've been working on Zinnias because I thought that seemed easy. I learned today reading here that I didn't have as many that were viable, thanks to advice in a post from Remy about checking for bendy-ness of the seeds. Very helpful!

Last night I noticed some seed pods bursting open on my cannas, so I collected those and I think they were just right. :)

I also poured several dozen seeds out of some dried Formosa lily stalks, and I think those were right too.

I was hoping you guys could give me some general newbie advice on identifying whether the seed is ready to collect, and how to best prepare it for trades. I have lots of cool stuff in our new garden (new house, two years here), and I'd love to be able to collect and trade the seeds!

Some things I have, if that helps:

Several agastache

Several salvias

aster oblongifolius

gailliardia (oranges and lemons)

coneflower (several kinds)

Thanks for any help!


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Hi Connie,
You'll love winter sowing!
Here's what I can tell you about your seeds~
Agastaches and salvias are closely related and their seeds ripen the same way. The flower falls out of the calyx(cup part that hold the flower to the stem) and then one to a few seeds ripen at the base of the calyx. When the calyx gets dry and or turns brown/gray, the seeds are ripe. The seed varies in color depending on variety and it can be round to oval shape. They sort of remind me of mice poo if you've ever seen mice poo, lol.
Aster seeds form sort of dandelion like. When the tails are full and look like they could float away, the seeds will come away from the flower base really easily. This kind of seed is good to cover with the little organza gift bags if you can so you don't have to worry about it blowing away.
Gaillardia seed looks like like little badminton shuttlecocks. I haven't collected gaillardia seed in awhile so I can't recall how they looked when ripe on the flower. They are not in a pod though. They replace the area where the flower once was.
Coneflowers are all the same as far as how the seed develop. They can vary in size and color depending on type. The seed develop in the central cone of the flower. It becomes hard and spiny. Nestled between the dark spines are the seeds which are lighter and also look sort of like shuttlecocks but without the tails.
Hope that helps,

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 8:26AM
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That does help Remy! Thank you so much. I've learned a lot reading many of your posts here. :) You give really good, easy-to-follow advice and tips. I think I'm slowly getting a little better at this. Some things seem a lot easier than others. I also have verbena bonariensis, and good grief, I can't make heads or tails out of those! :D

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 11:27AM
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Hey Remy, I saw what you were talking about with the asters and the dandelion-like seeds. So, the whole fluffy part and what attaches it at the base is the seed?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 12:01PM
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One more update: I thought all my coneflowers were gone, but I had left four flowers of Green Jewel on their stalks, and they were black and ready to be harvested. I brought them in and sorted through everything, and I found...FOUR seeds. Wow, that was underwhelming. :) I guess you really have to be on top of it to beat the birds, huh?

Anyway, Remy, your description was very helpful in identifying them.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 6:31PM
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Thanks! I try to explain as simple as possible. I know how easily a person learning can get confused. It is sort of like explaining computer stuff to me. I get so lost when people start using technical mumbo jumbo.

The fluffy part of the aster seed is the tail at the other end is the seed. You can break off the tails before storing the seed if you want. That is just a mechanism that some seeds use for wind dispersal.

Verbena seed looks like tiny pencil lead pieces. It is had to separate the chaff from them. Chaff doesn't hurt to be planted with seed. For trading, I wouldn't worry about it. As long as you can see lots of pencil leads mixed in with the chaff, you are ok. It is only bad when some one doesn't realize all they sent was chaff!

Oh, yes certain seeds attract the birds!! I had a bunch of organza bags on my Devil's Bit Scabiosa(the finches love it) plants in front of the house, and I thought it looked a bit odd. My sister-in-law though loved it. She thought it looked decorative, lol.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 8:20PM
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Wouldn't you know, I just threw away a little organza bag the other day when cleaning out our Christmas wrapping paper box. I thought, "What in the heck will I ever do with that?" :) If I get any more for Christmas this year, I'm saving them. Even a couple would help!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 8:29AM
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Also look after the christmas sales for the organza bags. I had to buy at normal price this summer in order to collect my impatiens seeds. When those things are ripe they "pop" open when you touch them. Which is kinda cool, especially when you show a kid.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 6:02PM
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That's a good idea Paula. I always hit the after-Christmas sales anyway for wrapping supplies :) Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 10:32PM
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I really enjoyed reading this.
I was just wondering about using old shear curtains to zip out a few bags,very simple to sew.
Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 10:16PM
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That is an excellent idea!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 9:09PM
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Thanks Remy.
After posting this I saw it in another post, so I guess I'm not as clever as I would like to be.
I am racing to get my winter sowing done before it gets to warm.
After that I will be making some of these bags.At that time I will probably make some to share,as well.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 6:50AM
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irisnquilt(Zn 5)

Just so you aren't disappointed your coneflower (hybrids) will be one of the parent coneflowers. So the Green Jewel will not be a Green Jewel, a Tomato Soup will not be a Tomato Soup. Just so you are not disappointed. I have a 14' bed of cones (they are my favorite) and I had to learn that hard way. You will still get a cone but not the hybrid. They still are beautiful tho'!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 9:24AM
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