Summer is almost over, but it is not too soon to plan ahead for next year’s garden. You can start by harvesting flowers and collecting seeds. It is an educational and fun project that you and your children can enjoy together. Not only will you learn about the life cycle of flowering plants, you will also have free seeds for next spring’s planting!
Here is what you will need to get started:
- Flowering annuals like marigolds, zinnias, or cosmos, these annuals are very common and grow well in our area.
- A container for collecting flower heads
- Scissors or gardening shears to cut flowerhead from plants
- Several sheets of newspaper
- A tray or sheet for drying flower heads and seeds
- Paper envelopes for storing dry seeds
- A pencil or marker for labeling the envelopes
- Crayons for coloring pictures on the envelopes.
- A cool dry place to store the sorted seeds
- Collect faded flower heads on a dry sunny day. If flower heads are damp, they will need to be dried to ensure that the seeds will germinate later. Use the scissors or shears to remove the dried flowers from the plant. This is probably the only occasion in the life of a flower when browner and deader is better. Place the flower heads in the collecting container.
- When you have finished collecting flower heads, it is time to spread them on the newspaper sheets on your work area.
- Separate the different types of flowers so you will be able to label and identify the seeds for storage. If the flowers are not dried enough, you will have to spread them on a tray to dry. This could take a week or two.
- Remove the seeds from the flower base of dried blossoms by crushing and rolling them between your fingers. The seeds are located below the petals in marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos. Once you have pulled the flower head apart and found the seeds, the remainder of the flower is called chaff. Discard the chaff and save the seed. Dried seeds will be brownish in color, not green. If the seeds are green, they are immature and should be dried out before storage.
- Label a paper seed envelope with the name of the flower. Have children draw or decorate the envelopes with pictures of the flower and place the dried seeds inside.
- Store the sealed envelopes in a cool dry location. I keep mine in a sealed container on my garden shelf.
The hard part about harvesting seeds will be waiting to plant them in the spring. You can sow your seeds directly in the soil in a sunny location after the last frost has passed. This usually occurs in March in our area. Cover the seeds with 1/4” of soil. Keep the soil moist to germinate the seeds.
Flowers like marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos grow quickly in warm weather. When daytime temperatures warm to the 60 to 80 degree range they will begin a period of rapid growth. Be prepared to be amazed by the beautiful flowers that you’ll grow from your harvested seeds.
Interested in gardening and sharing your horticultural passion with others? The Master Gardeners of Tulare-Kings Counties are now recruiting new trainees! The new training class begins January 17, 2018. Weekly classes will be held Wednesday mornings from January through May. If you are interested, attend our Orientation meeting on October 11, 2017, from 3:00-4:30, at the Master Gardener Office, 4437 B South Laspina Street, Tulare. Fill out an on-line application at cetulare.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Sue Gillison, Master Gardener Program Coordinator, at 684-3343 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More detailed information can be found on the Tulare-Kings County Master Gardener website, at cetulare.ucanr.edu.