It’s all about the birds and the bees when we’re talking plants. But that can be a difficult subject with kids though. Most plants want to grow, flower and then make seed to procreate. A lot of them need a pollinator to do that.
If it’s too early to explain why the plants make seeds, saving them can be a fun thing to do together.
The most important thing to figure out first is if the plant is a hybrid or open pollinated variety. Seed from hybrid won’t grow true, but an open pollinated variety will produce the same variety from saved seed.
Hybrid seeds can be fun to save as they will be a surprise next season, but they sometimes can be sterile. If the plant marker doesn’t say hybrid, it’s probably good to save.
The key to saving seeds is getting them right before the plant discards them. Every variety is different. Sunflowers, beans, rose of Sharon, coneflower and zinnias are some of the easy ones to figure out. You want mature seed, so that’s why we’re waiting until the plant is ready to drop its progeny.
When a sunflower head looks down, it’s ready to give up its seed. Hold a
paper bag under the head and gently push the seeds out with your thumb. Take as many as you need and leave some for the birds, who will feast on them when the time is right. It’s another good lesson to teach your child. When bean pods turn brown and hard, they can be pried apart to reveal the seeds.
Paper envelopes are the perfect home for the seed. I then put them in mason jars to keep them dry. A little packet of silica gel in the jar will help too. Seeds are living and breathing organisms and store best in a cool, dark and dry place.
If the seed gets moist, it will be ruined and won’t germinate when planted. The biggest surprise for first-time seed starters is how viable their seeds are. Most of the seeds saved usually sprout, so it’s a great way to save money and share with others.
Spend some time in the garden with children and see what plants are ready to give up their seed. You’ll all have fun and learn a little, too.
Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at (412) 965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at EverybodyGardens.com.