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How to Harvest and Dry Seeds

How to Harvest and Dry Seeds
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It’s time to gather this past summer’s seeds from your favorite flowers and veggies to save for next year’s garden crops. In this post, I’ll explain how to harvest and dry seeds from your garden and share which seeds are the easiest to harvest for great results year after year.

Flowers reseeding

Wildflower seeds gently blowing to re-seed.

Before harvesting seeds from your veggies and flowers, it’s important to know if the plants the seeds are coming from are open-pollinated or hybrid plants. Open-pollinated plants are pollinated by insects, birds and the wind. Hybrid plants are plants that have been cross-pollinated under controlled conditions with the help of humans using two different species of the plant. Hybrid plant growers chose traits such as larger blooms and berries or preferred colors and traits to modify and control the plant’s appearance. Plants and veggies purchased from department and grocery stores are likely to be hybrids. Seeds harvested from hybrids will often times not produce the same results as those that were naturally cross pollinated. If you bought your flowers and veggetables from a farm stand or home gardener, results will be more consistent.

Dried milkweed pod

Milkweed seeds and pods ready to harvest. Milkweed is a great plant for Butterfly gardens

Instructions on How to Harvest Seeds:

  1. Prepare for seed harvesting by labeling small paper bags or manila envelopes with the name of the plant seeds you are harvesting and the date and color of the flower if applicable. Use sharp kitchen scissors for cutting pods.
  2. Look for seeds with dry and brown pods.
  3. Snip the entire pod into the paper bag or envelope and shake to loosen the seeds.
  4. Leave the bags/envelopes open and hang from a rafter in a dry area with good air circulation.
  5. Let the pods and seeds dry for a few weeks, occasionally checking the bags for mold and shaking the contents to aid in the drying process.
  6. If the seeds have not dried completely after a few weeks, spread them out on newspaper for another week before re-checking them.
  7. After the seeds have dried completely, remove all pods and debris and loosely re-package the seeds in a clean, labeled paper envelope and store in a dry place until planting time.

Gardener’s Tip: If you have an abundance of dried seeds, you may want to create your own seed packets by decorating envelopes with scrapbooking supplies and printing directions for planting the seeds. These packets make great gifts.

Top 5 Flower Seeds to Dry

  1. Nasturtium
  2. Pansy
  3. Marigold
  4. Foxglove
  5. Zinnia

Top 5 Vegetable Seeds to Dry

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Beans
  3. Squash
  4. Zucchini
  5. Watermelon

Know that you know how to harvest and dry seeds, start planning next year’s garden. Happy Harvesting!

Shelley Wigglesworth

Author:

Shelley Wigglesworth

Biography:

Shelley Fleming-Wigglesworth is a certified Maine Master Gardener and award winning newspaper columnist from Kennebunk, Maine. She has been writing for the York County Coast Star for more than a decade as a freelance columnist and features writer. In 2010 she began writing her own gardening column “The Master Gardener’s Notebook” for Tourist News. She also teaches gardening classes at local schools and colleges
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4 Responses to How to Harvest and Dry Seeds

  1. Virginia September 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    These are great tips, thank you for posting! We are trying to save some seeds this year for the first time and we’ve had some success. :)

  2. Shelley Wigglesworth September 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Thank you for reading Virginia! Happy harvesting!

  3. Cher Angelo September 19, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Hi, First, thank-you very much for these tips; I;ll save them for future reference. I am out of Boston MA USA adn this year was the most disappointing gardening experience I have ever had. I’ve been gardening veggies, florals, fruits & trees for almost 60 yrs now.
    The combination of weather for the area and illness has made it impossible to keep up with things like widespred fungi and molds on most leafy crops eg squash of almost every var, browning of tomato plants before they were even prime for picking; none had second crops, and msot didnt yield, the Sweet Babya girl tomatoes were anything but sweet when normally they are delish; the large var of peppers did not even yield excvept for greren bells, eggplant came infested frmo a reputable grower..need I say more? I am still witing for the beets, we had some carrot ver, and the peas olny grew moderately form teh first planting not from subsequent ones…tons of variety of foods here that we had planned on harvesting to eat becasue food is too expensive for us here. very disappointing. Then I became ill and cold not even go into the bulbbeds to get rid of crab grass that has inundated it. I could not get affordable help so it looks like this may be the beginning to the end for me enjoying my property. I cant afford to buy seeds for next year asn two yrs in a row was unable to obtain any veg seeds for replanting. Celry did not even grow at all, herbs did well! Ironic. Dont know what the furture holds but now I know how to best harvest seeds if the plants will only grow and let us maintain them. G

  4. Shelley Wigglesworth October 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Thank you very much for your comments. Your state’s Master Gardener program should be able to assist you with information on how to help grow and/or obtain seasonal, surplus, local veggies and fruits donated by Master Gardener Volunteers. Simply search online for the closest public state college and look for the Cooperative Extension link. Good Luck.

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