Save your seeds for spring
A few minutes here and there, while you are doing fall garden tasks, may leave a few more dollars in your pocket for plants and other supplies next year.
Vegetable seeds can be more difficult to save and grow than flower seeds. Many vegetables are hybrids, bred for disease resistance, flavor, longer storage, or a number of other desirable characteristics.
Hybrid seeds will grow, but they will revert back to the parent plant. Heirloom tomatoes are not hybrids, so often people do save and grow these seeds successfully.
I have also saved and grown green beans. You could Google the specific vegetable variety you are growing to determine whether it is a hybrid.
Many annual flower seeds are easier to save. Marigolds, zinnias and calendulas are easy to harvest, and will grow easily in the spring.
The biggest enemy of stored seeds is moisture, which will cause the seeds to germinate before you have planted them. It is ideal to allow the seeds to dry right on the plant.
I often pick aged spent blossoms, and store them in an open container in the garage to dry. I then separate the seeds from the blossom remnants, and label and store them in a jar or envelope.
There are YouTube videos available on saving seeds. I enjoyed the one from the University of Illinois Extension. This presenter included packets of moisture-absorbing material in each storage jar, to make sure the seeds stayed dried. He used powdered milk for this purpose in the video, making the packets from coffee filters.
It is not difficult to also collect and store perennial flower seeds, but these can be more difficult to get to grow from seed in the spring. Some perennial seeds need to be planted in the fall, then frozen before germinating; others need to be kept dry but frozen before planting.
Seeds germinate best at different temperatures: some prefer cool temperatures, and others demand warmth. The germination needs of various seeds vary as much as cultural requirements of different plants. I plan to write more about planting and growing seeds in early spring.
Rochester Civic Garden Center holds a seed and houseplant swap every January. Participants may bring seeds and houseplant cuttings, thought it is not required. Gardeners are often generous, and there are plenty of seeds and plants to share. Cost of participation is $15.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County for over ten years. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She works part-time as an occupational therapist with Finger Lakes DDSO.