Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Saving Seeds

My DH keeps telling me that with the amount of plants we have out in the garden, surely we should be able to get more of them simply by harvesting the seeds and growing our own plants.  I keep telling him that not all of the seeds that these plants we have are going to sprout and create new plants.  He keeps telling me that even if we get 10 plants for every 100 seeds, we could be "ahead of the game" and soon have thousands more plants.  So I told him.  Okay.  Go for it.  I'll harvest the seeds and he can grow them.

I took a little ziptop bag out to the garden and pulled off a bunch of seed heads - making sure to leave enough for the birds and other little creatures.  Then I brought them inside and said - here ya go!  Then he pointed out that they needed to be cleaned up and sorted so we would know where to put them when all of the seedlings started sprouting.

First up is the echinacea - purple cone flower.  I really like this one, but we only got 3 blooms this season and it looks like they are being crowded out by the rudbeckia - black-eyed susan.  It would be great if we could get a few extra of these.

So I pulled everything off of the cone and start separating out the seeds from chaff.  At first I carefully pulled apart all of the little black specks that looked really seed-like and set them apart.  Then I decided to look up what the seeds looked like and found out that I had separated out the wrong thing!

These are echinacea seeds.  Not that little black spec that would require a magnifier and tweezers.  Just the big beige thing.  You have to refrigerate these for 2 weeks, then put them on top of the soil, give them light, make sure they don't dry out, and they will sprout in 10-20 days.  But you won't get any flowers until the 2nd year.  So we should probably wait until March before we grow these ones.

Next up is the rudbeckia.  I have big ones and small ones.  This time I looked up what the seeds should look like before I spent an hour pulling them apart with tweezers.  See - I learn!

For these ones, you plant them 6-8 weeks before the last frost and then refrigerate for 4 weeks, then take them out and put them in a warm spot until they germinate.

These are hemerocallis (daylily) seeds - a mixed bag of whatever hadn't been eaten yet.  There weren't very many seed pods this year, but I think I got enough for my DH to play with - I mean plant.  These can be planted right away and raised indoors during the winter.  Just plant 1/4-inch deep and they sprout in about 2 weeks.  Plant up as they grow and then bring them out in Spring.  They'll flower in 2 or 3 years.

The hosta plants gave a lot of seeds per pod, so I only picked a few.  These seed pods were also sparse.  I think the rabbit or the squirrels were having a bit of a feast.  They should be easy, just plant and 2 weeks later they should sprout.  If you leave the lights on for 3 months or so, they will really take off.  Well, at least the 20% of them that actually grow.

I had to get some hollyhock seeds as well.  I know that they will fall off of the plant and self-sow at its' base, but it seemed wrong to leave it all to chance, so I grabbed a few pods.  Put the seeds in the freezer for a few days, then next Spring, sow them outside.

The final fancy one is canna.  In January, nick the seed opposite the scar, then pour boiling water over them.  After they start crackling, add cold water until it is lukewarm.  Let them soak for 24 hours and then plant them.  The plants will sprout in a 1-3 days.  Freaky - a sprout in a day.  I should look up what type of environment these plants are from.  Boiling water, growth in a day to survive.  Sounds harsh.

So here they all are - nicely separated.  All that remains is to put some powdered milk in the bags to absorb any excess moisture - apparently rice doesn't quite do the trick - and then freeze or just place in a cool place as each one needs.

And there you have it.  In 2 or 3 years, maybe 20% of the seeds will be plants out of which 5% will grow and flower.

I'm sure that saving endangered seeds is a good thing.  I'm not convinced about it when it comes to common plants.  Either way, my DH will have fun trying and it will be good practice.

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