Save Your Seeds

French Marigold seeds from this summer's garden drying on a paper towel
French Marigold seeds from this summer's garden drying on a paper towel.

When we left Golden and I had to say goodbye to my former garden, I took as many seeds as I could: Shasta daisies, rudbeckia, chives, cilantro/coriander, and gaillardia. I started the perennials this past winter through my favorite lazy stratification method. These perennials got their roots in the ground this summer and if they overwinter well, I will permanently have a piece of my old garden in the new.

beautiful, pollinator-feeding blooms from a nasturtium   cluster of three highly-visible and savable nasturtium seeds   Nasturtium seeds drying on a paper towel
After providing beautiful, pollinator-feeding blooms, nasturtium seeds mature in clusters of two to three highly-visible and savable seeds. I brought these inside to dry on a paper towel and lost a few to my girls walking by thinking these were peas on which to snack.

Plants have an amazing reproductive system, maturing hundreds to thousands of seeds in hopes that a few will propagate into the next season and give rise to the next generation. Some seeds are easier to save than others due to their size. I can save coriander and dill seed every season, but I have yet to even notice a tiny thyme seed. I save marigold, zinnia, and nasturtium seeds, but have yet to have any microscopic pansy seeds fall into my palm at the end of the season. If it’s easy I save it, why not? I have a serious gardening habit and saving seeds at least cuts out some of the costs.

zinnia and echinacea seeds collected from dried seed heads and packaged for the next season
These zinnia and echinacea seeds were collected from dried seed heads and "packaged" for the next season. I always write the year in which they were collected, so I know how viable they might be once they are lost in my seed storage bin.

While I was canning, I set aside jalapeño and Serrano seeds to cure for next year's garden. I knew these were heirloom, open-pollinated varieties that would produce fruit close to the parent variety. The one thing I am not sure of is if the seeds were fully mature when I harvested them from the fruit. Time will tell when I try to germinate them in February for next summer's garden. 

Drying jalapeño and Serrano seeds harvested during my tomatillo salsa canning session

I will dry, save, and plant these jalapeño and Serrano seeds harvested during my tomatillo salsa canning session in next summer's garden.

I didn't save the tomato or tomatillo seeds this year and this will be next year's experiment when I actually have the space to successfully grow them myself. This season, I purchased tomatillos from a local farm and my parents gave me tomatoes from their garden. Harvesting these "wet" seeds is a bit more involved and I didn't know if they were heirloom, open-pollinated varieties.  

Drying French Marigold and Orange Hawaii Marigold blooms

After several freezes, I harvested these French Marigold and Orange Hawaii Marigold blooms and will let them dry in these old yogurt containers before harvesting. Southwest Colorado is very dry so I am not worried about mold or mildew.

I am mainly saving flower seeds this fall--marigolds, zinnias, calendula, nasturtiums, and hollyhocks. The hollyhock seeds gathered from the former community garden, I have dried and sorted and will get these back to the science teacher at our elementary school for student use in the new garden. Since I ended up with a huge number of french marigold seeds, I will be adding these to my seed inventory for sale in the Forging Time store in January once they are cured and packaged. I have just enough nasturtium, zinnia, and calendula seeds to establish new plants for my garden in the spring.

Next season, I know I will have enough herbs and veggies to accomplish the next level of seed-saving goals I am striving for: 

  1.  Saving the seed varieties that perform and taste the best in my climate, so I have an unlimited supply of these in my future gardens,
  2. Saving seeds to share with others starting their own gardens, and
  3. One day possibly create my own varieties that can be passed down through my family and friends to the next generation of gardeners.

As I incrementally make my way toward realizing these seed-saving goals through tried and true techniques, I will chronicle them here. In the meantime, what seeds are you saving this fall as a promise to next season's bounty?

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