Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saving Seeds, Part I Zinnias

Now is the time of year were everyone is all in a buzz for seed collecting! If you are like me, your whole purpose for collection these seeds is because you are cheap or you really want to save some of your seeds so that you can trade them online (because your CHEAP,) or you may be very saintly and are trying to keep that particular variety of seed alive! What ever reason you may have seed saving is well worth the time and effort that you put into it.
I can remember when I was younger, I had tried to collect some pepper seeds. I took every pepper in the house, all of which were from the store, and stuck them in a bottle which I stashed in my junk drawer. That following spring I proudly put my hand in my dresser drawer and pulled out that bottle of peppers. As I proudly pulled it out of my dresser I looked at seeds and shrieked in horror, instead of the beautiful peppers that I had stored away that fall, I had a bottle of whitish blue mold! You see I had made the common mistake of putting away my seeds before drying them. With all of the moisture in the seeds, it caused the whole batch to mold, and boy did it mold. Lets just say, that bottle didn't have a happy ending!
This will actually become a series of blogs that I will do. In this blog I will talk about: How to Harvest Seeds, and How to Store Seeds. I will start out by doing some of the most popular seeds, seeds that we all have grown, such as...Zinnias, Tomatoes, Peppers, Snap Dragons, Cucumbers, and Prairie Mallow. So look forward to a new edition each week, and will follow the order that I have written them above.
I will also Publish them online as we go along, so that you can have them all on one piece of paper and not have to look through all of the blogs...not that I mind!

There are some simple tools that will be a life saver when it comes to harvesting and cleaning seeds! These are are located in the picture above, but for the sake of your eyes I will list them for you.

  • Knife, for opening the fruiting body
  • Small Spoon, for scooping out seeds
  • Strainer, for cleaning the seeds
  • Paper towels, for drying the seeds
  • Storage devises (jars or ziplock baggies), for storage.


Zinnias are a classic plant when it comes to the garden. I do not know of a single gardener who hasn't, at one time or another, had this plant in their garden. If you want to collect seeds form this lovely plant the best thing you will need to learn is...Patients! Yes, patients, and the reason I say this is because you really need to wait until the flower has completely died before you can start to harvest the seeds. A trick that I like to use is to tie a fine mesh bag around the flower head that I want to harvest seeds from, this little trick will keep the birds from eating all of the seeds and it will catch any seeds that fall out of the seed head!
When harvesting the seeds from the seed head you will have to have a hard surface underneath you, as it will help with the clean up. The first step is to grab the seed head...DUH! After that you will want take your fingers and pull off all of the petals so that you have one big pile. Once this is accomplished, sift through all of the debris to find the zinnia seeds. Zinnia seeds look like little arrow heads or like flat sunflowers. Once done sifting to find the seeds go ahead and compost the material left over. Be sure that when you put you seeds away, for storage, that you mark that container that they are in with the "seed name" and "date of harvesting". This way you will not
someday in the future, say..."What is this?" Trust me, I have done this many times! Here is another tip for you; if the zinnia flower was dry when you were collecting seeds from it, go ahead and store the seeds. If they were not, you will need to either let them set out to dry or wrap them in a paper towel. Be sure that if you put the seeds in a paper towel, that you check on the seeds every couple of days so as to prevent your seeds from molding. Learn from my experience with the peppers and don't ever put seeds away wet or fresh from a plant! This will only

As always, if you have any questions or if something was unclear, please contact me or leave me a comment so that I can help you out or maybe clarify something!
Also I will attach a link to all of the pictures of the zinnias and put a link out so that you can view the rest of the series on storing and collecting seeds!

This is the link for this article on seed saving, and the ones to follow!


Anonymous said...

Zach I enjoyed your seed saving info and such a joy to read! Can't wait to read more! PS I just saved my first cantalope of the season seeds. Robin

Zach said...

Thanks Robin,
I tried to grow all sorts of squash...they all died...then I come to find out that I have a great big cantaloupe vine growing in my compost pile!


Anonymous said...


Enjoyed your info...I have saved some mauve-colored I plant it in fall for spring,or do I plant it in early spring?

(Am I allowed to ask questions?)


Anonymous said...

Zach, thanks for the tips on saving zinnia seed. I will pass it along to my sister...or trade her info for seeds:-) Lori

Zach said...

What a great question, and one that I will explain. I believe the question you asked was if you could plant larkspur now so that you can transplant it in the spring.

The answer to you question is a matter of preference. Yes, you can plant larkspur now, but if you do so, you will have to nurture throughout the winter months. This entails proper lighting, moisture, and air circulation. If you can supply this, than by all means do so! If you do decide to do this, and are successful, than your plants will be much larger.

I personally, would rather just start mine in the spring months, when I plant the rest of my seeds. This will mean that they will be smaller and not necessarily bloom that year, but I will deal with it!

P.S. Yes you are allowed to ask questions!

Zach said...

I like your thinking, trading seeds for info. It sounds like you are on the right track!