I have various plants in my polytunnel (hoop house I think in the USA) that I have let bloom and set pods in order to collect seed - mizuna, radish, lettuce, coriander to name a few. I now really need the space for other things but I'm not sure how far down the line these seed pods need to be before harvesting them. I realise that allowing the plant to dry off and die naturally is the ideal but the drying down bit is not yet happening. Can I cut the seed heads off and dry them artificially (like on the polytunnel bench)?
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
posted 7 years ago
This stuff drives me a bit nuts :
I have a small space compared to many people, and it's quite a revelation to watch a plant get bigger...and bigger...then sit there for another three months ripening away.
I don't have the space to do 'proper' Suzanne Ashworth-style seed saving, and I have decided corn's not a good idea for me.
I let my seed ripen naturally, but I think that if the seed case is dryish (say it's a radish, I wouldnt want a trace of green), I'd finish drying the pods in a dark, dry place.
A coriander plant's usually pretty pathetic: I plant summer things around it /beside it since it's done its thing by summer time here.
Radishes: Once the pod is quite full I cut the plant and hang it upside down somewhere. At my house you are likely to find plants (peas, mustard, radish, asst greens) hanging upside down just about anywhere, inside or out.
Lettuce: Don't know, I'm doing it for the first time this year.
I suggest not cutting the seed heads off but instead cutting or pulling the entire plant and hanging it if possible head down, or if not enough handing room, laying flat in a single layer. Many plants seem to be able to take their residual life after being cut or pulled and use it to ripen seeds. Certainly all the thistles I cut down when they had set seed heads were able to ripen many many many seeds after being cut!
Tyler Ludens wrote:I suggest not cutting the seed heads off but instead cutting or pulling the entire plant and hanging it if possible head down, or if not enough handing room, laying flat in a single layer. Many plants seem to be able to take their residual life after being cut or pulled and use it to ripen seeds. Certainly all the thistles I cut down when they had set seed heads were able to ripen many many many seeds after being cut!
Thistles can go from an unopened bloom to mature seed after being cut!
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this is interesting, I too thought things had to ripen on the plant to have viable seeds..I'll be watching this thread closely as I bought nearly all op seeds this year so I could save them.
Bloom where you are planted.
posted 7 years ago
Yes, thistles can definitely do it - grrrr don't I know when I've scythed down a field that I thought I'd caught in time, only to see seeds drift off a few weeks later on the wind... and a lovely crop the next year too!!
OK, I'm going to do a test. I'm going to cut half of them and dry them on the bench, and leave the others to ripen on the plant. I should be able to get them saved and planted again this year so I should know quite soon. Tyler, have you actually had germination from 'artificially' dried seed?
It just depends on the plant. Some types finish ripening quite well once picked. Others just stop developing and end up unviable.
posted 7 years ago
Oh blast - does that just mean trial and error? I hate planting seeds that don't germinate - it's the impatient part of me. Does anyone know of a good seed saving book that maybe gives a guide as to which plants you can do what with?
I save seed of pretty much everything I grow and it does vary a bit as to when you can harvest and be sure of getting viable seed. It works pretty well by family, though there are exceptions. These you will have to learn by trial and error.
Amaranthaceae, Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Lamiaceae - once a few seed cases/pods start drying down on the main stem pull the plant and let them continue ripening in a protected spot. You may want to put a bag over some if they shatter (spontaneously split open to release seed), especially Amaranthaceae and Lamiaceae.
Cucurbitaceae - fruit needs to be fully ripe so for cucumbers and zucchini this means waiting till well beyond eating stage before harvesting fruits. For others it coincides with good eating stage. Store fruits in a protected spot for a few weeks before processing. I have found that this improves the quality of the seed you get.
Fabaceae - when the pod goes flaccid (kind of soft and leathery), which it does as the first stage of drying down, you can be pretty certain that the seeds will be viable. Such pods can be picked and left to dry, or even shelled at this stage and left to dry. The latter is better if you live in a humid climate.
Solanaceae - berries must be ripe before processing for seeds. For eggplant for example this means waiting till long past good eating stage before harvesting. I have found with tomatoes that you get viable seed even if the fruit is picked at first break (when the chlorophyll begins to drain) and left to ripen indoors.
Hope this helps.
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