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Gardeners gain by finding time to save seed

Jessica Walliser
| Friday, Aug. 31, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Flower and veggie seeds that garden columnist Jessica Walliser collects and saves each year.
Flower and veggie seeds that garden columnist Jessica Walliser collects and saves each year.

In a few short weeks, frost will arrive. It's a sad time for gardeners, but one that also is chock full of chores to keep us busy. Putting the garden “to bed” for the winter is not an easy task. Soon, we'll be raking (and composting!) our leaves, pulling up spent plants, and harvesting the last of our tomatoes and peppers.

In my own garden, I always add “seed saving” to my list of early autumn gardening chores. Though buying new seeds each season doesn't usually break the bank, money saved on seeds translates to more money available for purchasing bulbs, tropicals and new containers for next year's garden. And so each fall, I head to the garden with a handful of large manila envelopes, a Sharpie marker and scissors.

My seed saving expedition primarily takes place in the flowerbeds. Nearly all of my favorite annual flowers are easily started from seeds that have been saved from year to year. I lop off a few dried-up flower heads from my zinnias, nasturtiums, cosmos, salvia, sunflowers, sweet alyssum and nigella, placing each variety in its own labeled manila envelope.

After the spent flowers have been harvested, I head inside and take each flower head out of its envelope and lay it on top of the envelope to fully dry. When the petals have completely shriveled and the flower head crumbles in my hand (about two to three weeks later), I pull apart each flower and pluck out the seeds.

The seeds of each selection are then put back into their respective envelope along with a packet of silica gel (a great way to reuse the ones you find in shoeboxes). I keep the envelopes in our cool, dark basement and try not to expose them to any moisture — that is, until they are planted the following spring.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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