Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Harvesting Seeds to Sow Next Spring Is Easy - and It Saves Money, Too

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Harvesting Seeds to Sow Next Spring Is Easy - and It Saves Money, Too

Article excerpt

For thousands of years, harvesting seeds was a crucial component of gardening - indeed, of maintaining the food supply.

An industry devoted exclusively to supplying seeds for gardeners and farmers has sprung up only in the last 100 years. Until then, the only way to ensure a fecund garden was to gather seeds from flowering plants at the end of each season.

Today, there is a perception that gathering seeds is unnecessary and complicated. It is no longer essential to the life cycle of the garden and, with widespread hybridization, certainly more complicated.

But saving seeds should be neither disregarded nor considered daunting.

There are two notable reasons for saving seeds.

One is that, especially among herbs such as fennel, mustard, caraway and coriander, the seed is the harvest.

The other is that there are excellent varieties that are difficult to find commercially. If elusive varieties become favorites, saving their seeds is especially urgent.

Seeds get to be expensive when you realize that you will want to plant not one packet costing $1.50, but a couple of dozen packets.

The point became startlingly clear for me this year after I bought a packet of seeds for cardinal climber, a favorite annual vine that bears a profusion of brilliant scarlet flowers the size of a quarter that are very attractive to hummingbirds.

I had grown the climber perhaps five summers ago and did not know then that I would have great difficulty finding seeds later. Last winter, I finally came across the variety in one seed catalog. The packet cost $1.80, and when it arrived, I was disappointed to find that it contained fewer than 20 seeds.

Determined, I sowed each one carefully along the arched trellis that also holds pole beans. The germination rate was another disappointment: Only a half-dozen plants actually sprouted. Despite the scanty performance, today there are quite a few of the luminous cardinal flowers adorning my trellis. These are marked for the seed that I know the plant produces in abundance.

The difficulty associated with seed saving is often exaggerated. Some species require complex methods and very precise conditions for successful seed propagation, but many annuals readily lend themselves to reproduction by seed. …

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