Seedy Business

last of the annuals

Remains of the Day

It’s seedy business.

If I don’t do it though, the birds, squirrels, wind and rain will.

Gather seeds, that is.

I’m fairly new to seed-saving.  I’ve always been a seed packet junkie, often buying far more seeds than I could ever hope to plant.  When my son was much younger, he regularly talked me into buying every pumpkin variety to be had.  Santa brought additional seeds for his Christmas stocking each year.  Our seeds runneth over!

Last year I started saving my own seeds and now I’m hooked.

Planting:

I planted four o’clock seeds this summer with mixed success, but collected them again for a second try.   I successfully started one plant in a pot, but thanks to ‘self-seeding’ ended up with multiple plants in the side garden.

Growing:

The compost bin produced an entire crop of pumpkins so I had left over seeds to spare.  I started several plants indoors, then gave them away to friends.  Reports were positive, so I definitely plan to do this next year.

Sharing:

This is the best part of my seed-saving adventures.  I saved handfuls of Cosmo seeds at the end of 2012 and gave them as gifts that Christmas.  I made a tri-fold card using digital software and my own Cosmo photos, then added small seed packets inside.  A few of my friends kept the cards and seeds intact, but others planted them.  My friend Stacie sent me a photo last month of her towering Cosmos.  That was pretty cool.

Cosmos Seed Cards - Page 001

Cosmo seed card front panel

Cosmos Seed Cards - Back Panel

Cosmos Seed Cards – Back Panel

Early this spring, I  gave away pumpkin seeds to a pair of adorable three-year-old twins.  I met them walking with their dad one evening while I was working in my garden.  The girls showed genuine interest, so I went inside and got them seeds to take home and plant…and they did!  I saw the family a few months later, and dad told me the plants took root.  Good stuff.

Saving:

The annual garden is going to seed and temps are finally dropping.  I knew time was of the essence.  I collected a healthy sample for next year, at the same time leaving plenty of seeds on the plants for my foraging friends.

seed gathering tray

My system: I used a portable tote and plastic cups from an Easter-egg dying project. I dropped seeds into the cups, then salvaged a bloom for easy identification later.

I’m looking forward to sorting and labeling seeds this weekend, a joyful activity for someone ‘born to organize’ like me.   I’ll share my progress next week.

seed pod

My favorite seed pod. Tiny black seeds tumbled out when I gently tapped the pod

Happy weekend!

Self-Seeded Pumpkin: Late Season Wonder

Okay, so squirrels aren’t always destructive. There’s a good chance that a squirrel buried one of last year’s pumpkin seeds at the edge of the lawn. That seed managed to survive all the activity around building the curb garden (twice), not to mention the proximity to the street.  You couldn’t ask for a clearer example of ‘survival of the fittest.’

I spotted the tell-tale seedling early on, but didn’t expect it to survive.  I let it be of course, and it gradually sent out true leaves and a few flowers.  Given the dense root system of the lawn, I figured it would overtake the pumpkin.  I removed chunks of lawn around the tiny plant without disturbing the pumpkin’s roots.  That did the trick.  Look at the progress of this plant in less than 30 days:

Curbside pumpkin plant, August 24th

Curbside pumpkin plant, August 24th

Curbside Pumpkin plant September 18th

Curbside pumpkin plant September 18th

I’m seeing the tell-tale signs of late season mold on the leaves, but the flowering continues. Hopefully we’ll have one more orange pumpkin to add to the mix before the vine retires for the season.

Be sure to check back for updates.

Pumpkin plant closeup

Pumpkin plant closeup

green pumpkin

Yep…it’s a pumpkin!

Saving Seeds

This is the first year I’ve collected seeds (other than pumpkins) from my garden. In the past I purchased seed packets at local garden centers or online without giving it much thought. Since writing about my garden every day, I have a heightened awareness that plants and flowers are more than just a sum of their parts. Hanging out in the garden with a camera in tow, helps me notice the minutiae. It’s been fun!

4 O'clock seeds

4 O’clock Seeds and Glassine Envelope

I love the way the hard, dark seeds of the 4 O’clock flower appear at the tip of the spent bloom.  They’re ready to tumble into the soil below to ensure their survival. They provide easy access for the birds as well, who can grab a seed on a fly by.  Cosmo seeds are moon-shaped and brittle, sticking out like stars at the end of the cycle. With pumpkins, of course, the seeds hide within.  If we didn’t carve them, they would eventually rot in the soil, self-seeding for the following year.

pumpkin seeds

Assorted Pumpkin Seeds

Cosmo Seeds

Cosmo Seeds

I’ve allowed plants and flowers to go to seed longer than in the past, subverting my natural urge to tidy things up.  Gardens are a messy business. I’m getting better at going with the flow.

Taking a few seeds and leaving the rest for the birds feels like the right thing to do.  When the cycle is truly complete, I can compost the remains.

Indexing Seeds

Indexing Seeds

Earlier this year I bought a system for storing seeds from The SeedKeeper.  It’s a shoebox-sized bin with alphabetical dividers and other goodies, including glassine envelopes for labeling and storing your own seeds.  It’s such a simple thing, but somehow having it at the ready in my bottom kitchen drawer, makes it easy to store and retrieve seeds. I pulled it out today and started storing and labeling the remaining pumpkin seeds.  Since I’m letting go of the seed organization on the plant, I can indulge my organizational side once I bring them indoors.

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Are you a seed saver?  Do you trade with fellow gardeners in your community?

The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. -Gertrude Jekyll