Should One Buy or Harvest Seeds?

morning glory seeds by oceandesetoiles

TheGardenLady received this question from someone called the Chicago Urban Gardener:

 I recently read and enjoyed your article on morning glories, in which you describe how you start the plant from seed. I was curious to know, however, whether you buy your seeds or harvest them from the previous year’s plants (I know that morning glories quite often self-seed). If the latter, how does one harvest and store morning glory seeds for planting next season? Do you have any general recommendations for collecting and storing seeds from annuals and perennials?

When I was a child we always collected the marigold and zinnia seeds and a few vegetable seeds. And we were scrupulous in digging up gladiola bulbs to replant the following spring. We were very frugal.

I do collect some seeds but not many. Propagating by seeds is fun, educational and a challenge. But it is not something that I really do. My gardening emphasis is on having flowers, not seeds. Toward that end, I deadhead flowers to force more flowers to bloom. This means I try NOT  to allow many plants to go into seed. Of course, at the end of the growing season you often find seeds even if you were not trying to produce seeds.

I do not save seeds for a few other reasons. One is because seeds are relatively inexpensive, so I support seed growers. And I like to change the annual plants and not plant the same seeds each year. Of course, if there were a flower I particularly liked, I would save the seed to see if I could grow the flower the following year. I like to buy new seeds because seed growers are constantly working on making a better seed for a better plant. For example, the older zinnia plants suffered from powdery mildew, a problem that is not fatal but makes the plant look ugly. The newer varieties are more resistant to powdery mildew so their leaves look less sickly in the garden. Or the seed growers are creating newer hybrid flowers that offer larger or more unusual colors. Look at all the variations that are now available in the echinacea family of flowers.  See here.  But some of the hybrid seeds will not flower a second year true to what was originally planted but will revert to a parent that may not be to my liking. For example, the tomato that we planted when I was a child was a hybrid that would not become the same great tasting tomato following year if we had saved the seed, but would revert to one of its not as special parent plant.

Also, I have so little space in my house I have to prioritize what I can save. As it is, this year when I dug up my dahlia and canna tubers to store for next spring’s planting, I was overwhelmed with the number of tubers that were brought up. I was given 4 or 5 tubers a few years ago and now I have hundreds of tubers- 5 shopping bags just filled with cannas. I almost wish they were edible, with such a harvest.

As I said previously, I do collect some seeds and this year I did save my ricinus/ castor bean seeds. These seeds come from plants that had been grown from seeds saved the previous year.

And so many of the plants I have do self seed, which in a way, is like saving the seeds because I do not discard them when they grow the next season. My dill, marigold, cosmos, cleome, peonies and other plants reseed. A few of my impatiens reseed. I have not had luck with nigella, but a friend has it reseed all the time. This friend gave me some of her salvia seeds that reseed in her garden. Other friends who save seeds have given me some of theirs. A seed exchange among friends is a wonderful thing to do.

If you want to save seeds from your morning glories and other seeds but are not sure how to go about this, a good site that tells you what to do, is Mr. Brown Thumb’s site.  See here.

Good luck.

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