Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Let's Review The Best Proven Seed Saving Practices

Summer is coming to an end and already we (gardeners) are looking forward to next year's gardens. Let's Review what happened in the garden this year and the best way to keep seeds for next years masterpiece.   Looking at what we have  growing now , gives us the opportunity to analyse what worked in the garden and what didn't.

garden flowers

Every gardener I know has some complaints about the plants or vegetables that have made their garden home for the last few months.  We are never completely satisfied with our results!  I think the gardener's motto must be something like:  Next Year The Garden will be Perfect!

Alas, that year has never happened for me and if I know most (humble) gardeners would say the same thing. Even the most perfect garden seems to fall short, somewhere.  Let's not dwell on that, let's look for ways that we can improve what we have.

Garden Journal

Hopefully you have been keeping a "Garden Journal".   What's a Gardening Journal?   Simply put, this is a book of your choice, where you note how your plants are growing, flowering, and going to seed.  You can also add information like what kind of pest problems they have encountered or how much watering they require.  Where they were planted, ie:  Full Sun, Partial Sun, Afternoon sun etc.  If you want to be really technical, you can also take note of other garden issues.  What plants go well together and which combinations were not as effective as you would have liked.  How well they flowered and so on.  The details of each plant and how it fared in your garden, are completely up to you. The garden journal I have shown you in the Amazon listing is great for filling in all kinds of details.  But, you can also do this with a simple plain lined notebook.

Finding the Seeds

If you go out in your garden you have to find the seeds.  If you are saving flower seeds, you will have to look where the flowers are and look at the base.  It helps if you have a little knowledge of plant biology.  You don't have to be a scientist, but it will make finding the seeds easier if you know where to look.

A Beginner's Guide to Flower Structure  

Every flower has the same "basic" structure in that there is the flower, inside is the pistil and stamens (these are the important parts when it comes to seed production) and underneath there is the sepals/calyx to hold the flower all together.  Let's see if a picture can make it easier to understand. The first picture is a jasmine blossom.  The petals of the flower are white.  Internally you can see the stamens and pistil.  If you look at the flower facing away from the camera, you will see the sepals/calyx.  Bees or other insects come and rub against the stamens to collect the pollen that they produce.  When the insect is leaving the flower, it may rub against the pistil and that will trigger seed production.  This is the basic way seeds are produced and if you'd like a little more in depth breakdown of the Parts of a Flower you can watch this short but precise You Tube Video: Parts of a Flower
jasmine flower
Jasmine Flowers showing Basic Flower Parts

poppy flower pods
Poppy Flower Pods Center one is ripe and the two on either side are not quite ready yet.
In this picture you see the seed pods of a poppy flower.  The tallest one is ripe, you can see that there are little holes under the "cap". Tilting this stem will make the poppy seeds pour out.  The other two pods in this picture still need to mature a little longer.  Once they show signs of the little holes, they too will pour out their seeds easily. Poppy seeds are small round and black or dark brown.  Each seed pod has thousands of poppy seeds within.  It is one of the most prolific seed producers.

Storing the Seeds

So now that you know where to look for your seeds, we need to store them until spring.  This is an important part of the whole exercise.  If you don't store the seeds properly, they may turn moldy and rot.  Then when spring comes you will be left with buying seeds again.  So let's not do that.  Let's store our seeds so that when spring arrives, we will have plenty of seeds for our wonderful garden of 2018.

Seeds can be stored in a variety of ways.  I personally like envelopes that are opaque.  They let you see the seeds within the packets so that you know right away that they are not rotting.  If you place your seeds in plastic bags, any moisture will remain contained and could adversely affect the seeds within.  Some of my gardening friends keep their seeds in old pill bottles.  That works too, so long as the seeds are really dry when they are placed inside.  Always use clean containers that will be labelled with the name of the plant on the outside.  Again I like to use envelopes because I place them into my Garden Journal along with the notes about that particular plant. Make sure you label your envelopes with the flower's name, color, and any other information you might want to keep.

If you are using a different method of storage, whether old pill containers or small jars, again, make sure you label them.  Keep all your seed filled containers in a nice box for easy storage.   You think you will remember what seeds  you put into each jar or pill bottle, trust me, you will not remember. It's much easier to do it NOW! 

Cool and Dark and Dry

Now that you have all your seeds nicely categorized and labelled clear out a nice dark and cool space to keep your journal or container of seeds.  Make sure it's a nice dry spot too.  We don't want to disturb our seeds during the months that they will be sleeping.  We just want to ensure that when the right time comes (spring of 2018) they will be more than ready to do their magic.  

Seed Collecting is Fun

Seed collection is fun, but it is also a great way to educate your children and grandchildren.  With all the talk about Genetically modified seeds and plants, you know that you can have your own supply of seed that is not modified and will grow.  Heirloom seeds are making the news all the time.  You can start your own heirloom seeds if you follow the instructions you find here.  This Review is about flower seeds mostly, but the same principles can apply to vegetables too.  That is why I included some books for your reading pleasure. Vegetable seeds need a little more attention when it comes to collecting, preparing and storing them.  Please do yourself a favor and do some reading, I don't want you to be disappointed with your results.  

Beginners will want to start with seeds that are easy to find.  Here's a whole bunch that will start you off on the right foot!

  • poppies
  • Four O'Clocks
  • snapdragons
  • moss roses or portulaca
  • marigolds
  • cosmos
  • morning glories
  • bleeding hearts

Please let me know in your comments if you are planning to do some seed collecting and what types of seeds you will be adding to your "stash".  I'm always interested in knowing more about other people's gardens.  

**all pictures are from 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. I don't remember if my grandmother (the gardener in my family) collected seeds for the next year's garden or not. But I can see the advantages in saving seeds from your favorite plants for either improvement in next year's garden, or to share with family and friends. Thanks for the gardening advice, Olivia.

    1. You are very welcome, and yes sharing is always a great idea when it comes to an abundance of anything. Seeds by their very nature tend to be abundant too.

  2. Thanks for the information! I usually save my Marigold seed.

    1. You are welcome Angie, you can save many more seeds if you know how, vegetables like tomatoes and peppers are easy to do, if you want to know more message me.

  3. This year I have a pot of petunias on the porch that grew on its own from seed that fell last year. Even lazy, busy, forgetful gardeners like me can have success without even trying!

    1. You must be one of the lucky ones who doesn't live in a freezing winter zone. My petunias never made it to the point of re-seeding. If I didn't save them, then I would be buying fresh seed in the spring. Lucky you!

  4. I am blessed to be in a community where a few gardeners even share their seeds. Some of my favorite seed "packets" have come from a small church garden where the women save and share the seeds every year.

    1. Yes you are blessed indeed. Shared seeds are fun in two ways at least, first they are pretty and then you can always remember where they originated and share in a larger circle the next year.

  5. I've been saving poppy seeds when I deadhead the church flowerbeds, since about June. I now have a large paper grocery store bag about 1/3 full. (That is a LOT of marigold seeds!) I've also been saving the snapdragon seeds. I don't save the poppy seeds and have been doing my best to eradicate those. They are about as prolific as wild mustard. I've allowed broccoli, kohlrabi, flat-leafed parsley, chard, and carrots to go to seed, for next year's garden. The pumpkins and squashes are easy...I just let them dry over the winter and break them open for the seeds. I also nearly always have volunteers coming up as it is and of 6 ghost pumpkin plants, five of them are volunteer. Three of seven zucchini plants are also volunteers.

    1. Lucky you Rex! Better to have too many and weed them out, than to wish for them and not have any seed. Squash are very easy plants to save seeds from and you can also do peppers and tomatoes with a little bit of effort. Marigolds and poppies are probably the most prolific seed producers that I know of. The other being portulaca (moss roses) small seeds but lots of them.

  6. Great information, thanks for sharing! I have saved some hibiscus seeds and hoping to start them inside so they will be ready for planting in the spring.

    1. Oh I wish you luck with those. Are they the perennial hibiscus or the tropical ones????

  7. I think a garden journal is a great idea. This year was a bust for my garden. I killed most of my plants, just because I was not able to get out and water them as much as I wanted. Plus over watering them when it rained and I couldn't get out to drain them quick enough. I am going to change this up next year and hopefully have a better garden. In the next few weeks I plan to take my containers and buckets and empty them completely to start from scratch next year. I plan to add drainage holes which i did not do thsi year. Shame on me, I knew better but it slipped my mind.

    1. This summer has been a trial for me too. I am now balcony gardening and learning new things and the summer just hasn't been as warm as we are used to.....oh well there is next year and all my notes from this year to go over.

  8. Some terrific tips here for the avid gardener. I'm no where near an expert, but lately find myself wanting to learn more about gardening and am actually getting a tad better at it.

    1. Practice will make you a gardener extrordinaire. Life and gardening has their own learning curve, at least you are on it. Keep a journal, it will help.

  9. I started a garden journal many years ago when we were going to have a big anniversary celebration. I logged things for a year in order to know when things would be in bloom. It worked great ... sad;y I didn't keep up with it that well after the event. However I do keep seeds or winter over things in my shed with a 100 watt bulb. My jasmine has done well for four years, but I've never tried doing it with my moss rose. The morning glory has reseeded itself even though I learned how to collect seeds for it last year. I was blessed to have seeds from a friend that she received from her mother in the Philippines, but I couldn't get them to grow. Hopefully next time they will. So much to do to get the garden ready for winter, but I agree it's worth it. Thanks for all the tips and the beautiful photographs.

    1. You are so welcome, it was my pleasure. Did your garden do better the year that you kept the journal? I'm just curious, or did you find it a waste of time? Personally, I make notes about what doesn't work more than I make notes about what does.....go figure.


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