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Seed Saving for Next Year's Garden

This year's vegetable garden did exceptionally well and I believe that part of its success is due to the presence of so many flowers in the garden.  Not only did I plant a wildflower bed adjacent to the vegetable garden, I also planted rows of flowers in between several of the vegetable beds.  I was able to plant so many marigolds and cosmos due to having saved the seed heads from the prior year -- I had a giant paper bag full of the flower seeds!  Earlier this spring, my daughter and I dumped the entire bag across two long rows in the garden.  We then scattered a package of wildflower seeds nearby.

Recently I came across an interesting book that explains the benefits that flowers bring to vegetable gardening, Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty, by Lisa Mason Ziegler. I had stumbled upon the bounty that planting flowers alongside vegetables brings -- and Ziegler lays out the reasons in her book.  Not only do flowers deter many garden pests, the blooms also attract pollinators.  Flowers definitely benefited my garden this year.  I've never grown beets and acorn squash of such great size, and my beans have gone crazy - I can't keep up with canning and freezing them.  The tomato harvest, assuming the fruit ripens well enough, will also be enormous.

Next year, instead of only two rows of flowers, we are planning to have a row of flowers in between every vegetable bed.  Which leads me to today's article on seed saving. I will need waaaay more seeds for next year's garden, and so gathering seeds from flowers is the most affordable option.

Saving flower seeds is the easiest task in gardening.  Once the flower blooms wither on the plant, pick off the flower heads and lay them out to dry in the house. My drying racks are old window screens (salvaged from when we replaced our windows).  Good air circulation around the seeds helps them to dry more quickly.  To prevent the seeds from molding, it's important that the entire seed heads are dry before storing them.

Once the flower heads are dry, I place them into a paper bag. Then I label the bag and put it somewhere cool for safekeeping until next spring.

Some gardeners place their flower seeds into smaller paper envelopes and then put the envelopes into a mason jar with a lid. They will then place the jar in the fridge or another cool place.  For longer-term storage, those extra steps can definitely help ensure the viability of the seeds.  However, I've always done well enough just keeping the seeds in a bigger paper bag, especially since I am only keeping them until the next growing season.  I might try putting my seeds down in the cellar this year where the air temperature stays nearer to 50-55 degrees all year long.


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