September is always a busy time in the garden. On the one hand, we have the summer bumper crops of tomatoes, squash, and eggplant rolling in. Half of my brain is thinking about recipes and preparation. The other half of my brain is looking and thinking ahead, to fall and winter. I want to plant kale, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, and spinach like, now. Planning where to put it all can be stressful, when you are also dealing with an onslaught of fresh produce. AND my apple tree is over-flowing with tiny green apples. Have to deal with that too. Ok, deep breath.
One of the best things about having your own home garden is seed saving. Right now, as the summer season is winding down is an excellent time to rummage around the garden and see what seeds are available for next year. Saving seeds can save you money and time. And you get to keep what your really like to eat and produce well. So far, I have found five plants that are giving up a good number of free seeds for next year.
The cilantro plant was very lush and beautiful this year. I had it on a drip system, and it really enjoyed that treatment. Here is a photo of the plant, dry as a bone. But look at all those seeds! I will save some to plant more cilantro next year. And I will use some of the seeds in the kitchen, ground up as coriander.
When saving seeds two things to remember: they have to be clean and dry. If you store wet or damp seeds, you will end up with a moldy mess. I picked this plant, and let it dry in the sun for two weeks before I picked all the seeds off. Find a shady spot in the garden, and have a seat. It takes a little bit of time, but it is worth it. Saving seeds will save money and allows me to keep my favorites around for a while.
I like to use tea tins to store seeds. They are stronger than plastic, and won’t crack over time. Plus they look cool. I like to use Mason jars too.
After about an hour, my tin was half-full. The chickens couldn’t figure out what I was doing, and why I wasn’t giving them any seeds. These are mine, all mine.
More investigation in the garden lead to more seed collecting, mostly flower seeds. I grew some gorgeous zinnias this year. The petals looked like parrot feathers. They love hot weather and are a summer flower I love to grow.
When they dry completely, they look well, dead. But if you cut the heads off, and carefully pull the petals out, or just use your thumb and start to take the head apart, the little seeds emerge. They look like black spearheads. Very fragile and small.
This is how full the tin of zinnia seeds is! I will have a lot next year, which is great. Flowers help to attract bees and birds to your garden, bees help pollinate and the birds eat bugs. It’s a win-win.
Hollyhock grows very well here, and there are plenty of seeds to go around. The birds like to eat them too.
Nasturtium are another favorite. My Mom always had them growing in her garden. They are edible and beautiful.
Do you see those funny little white round things? Those are the seeds! They usually start to appear as the plant is dying, but this year, because of the heat, they started early.
This is what the seeds look like dry, on the ground. I like to gather them, and take them inside. You could just plant them, and they will come back in the springtime.
Finally, I have harvested the leek seeds this year. They are planted in November, and grow over winter. We harvest them in the spring time. This is what they look like when we plant them.
This is what they look like when we harvest them. If you have not tried growing or cooking with leeks, I encourage you to give them a try. Milder than an onion, they are delicious in soups and egg dishes. Potato and leek soup is heavenly (Vichyssoise). Leeks are very easy to grow and do very well in cold weather. You only eat the white and light green parts.
And this is what they look like if you let them go to flower. The bees love them, by the way. Aren’t they lovely? I just love the pom-pom look of these flowers. We left about twenty in the ground.
You must wait till they are dead, dry, and brown. Cut the tops off, and then let them sit in a shaded place out of the sun for a few weeks. Next, you need a table, and a big bowl.
By gently shaking the flower head, tiny black seeds start to fall off. They look like fleas, so very small. If the flower head is not dry, the seeds will not come out. Needless to say, we have hundreds of leek seeds. I think these are King Richard or American Flag (terrible I can’t remember what I bought last year). I buy my leeks and a lot of my seeds from The Natural Gardening Company, in Petaluma. They are certified organic. You can check out their online catalog at Natural Gardening Company.com
Ok, now what am I going to do with all the eggplants? Wait, didn’t I say that last week? I have to start researching recipes…