Wednesday, September 16

Mid - September ... time to start saving seeds again

This past March, I purchased 15 pelleted "Explorer Blue" Petunia seeds from Johnny's for $3.95. I started 15 seeds (even had a few bonus seeds in the packet), and with minimal effort, had 5 plants sprout. A germination rate of 30% are remarkably good for me, considering how poorly I treat my seedlings, letting them dry out half the time, and that Petunias are 'new-to-me' plants.
Now, the blooms are still going strong, but the older blooms have begun to fade and dry up. It is time to collect the swollen seed pods, harvest the seeds, and store them for next spring. The seed pods are teardrop-shaped buds that are left after the flowers fade and the petals fall off. Once the pods are dry, pinch them off. Some, like the pod on the right, below, will begin to crack open and release the seeds (the tiny black specks, below). At this point, the seeds should be ripe and ready to harvest.

'Explorer Blue' is a hybrid petunia, so the seeds may or may not germinate, and may or may not be blue, but it's worth the effort. I'll run a germination test on some of the seeds over the next few weeks to see if they're sterile (some hybrids do not produce viable seeds), and if something sprouts, we'll try it out next season. If not, no big loss. Mesh wedding favor bags from a craft store are perfect for saving seeds - they have drawstring closures that hold snugly around stems, a fine mesh that keeps even the tiniest of seeds contained, and synthetic material that won't soak and retain moisture, preventing rot. The bags are inexpensive (less than $1 each for 3"x4" size), and come in many colors if you wish to color code your seed collections.

If you want to be lazy, tie a large bag around a stem and just wait for the whole stem to ripen fully, then break it off and collect the seeds - remember any flowers that need insects to pollinate won't be accessible once the bag is tied shut. If you don't like the look of a bag tied around your flowers while you still have summer visitors in the garden, just collect several seed pods by hand, dropping them into the bag, or shaking the stems over the open bag to collect seeds that fall out.

Seeds collected today:
  • Explorer Blue Petunia
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Blackeyed Susan

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