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Cleaning small seed

 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Hi,
This is my second year saving seed from my basil plants. Last year I saved all the seed I could from the Siam Basil and then had enough to scatter throughout the flower beds. (If it didn't help the local bees, it surely didn't hurt). It may be an old trick for the rest of you, but this year I realized that I could use my mortar and pestle to lightly crush the flowers and make separating the seeds and chaff much easier on myself. I feel like it worked pretty well for me. I think I'm going to use the same method next year when I pull my amaranth.

Has anyone else here stumbled across any tricks for dealing with very small seeds that they feel like sharing?

Casie
 
Rebecca Norman
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I read that if you want to space small seed precisely, eg carrots, you can mix them up with a sticky glue-like substance such as flour water, sit a table with your reading glasses in good light, and stick them along a strip of toilet paper with a pencil. Then lay the toilet paper out on your garden bed and weight it down with stones or soil here and there, and water. The seedlings will push right through the paper.

A tip I heard for seeds that need to be scarified (have their seed coat nicked) is to curl a piece of sandpaper inside a jar facing inwards, put the seeds in, and vigorously shake the jar to scar the seed coats.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I typically crush seed pods with my hands. If they are particularly spiky, then I wear leather gloves. I also walk on seed pods, or hit them with a stick, or beat the plants against the inside of a garbage can.

Then I dump them through a screen to separate the seed heads from the seeds. I collect all sorts of different sizes of screens.

Then I winnow.

An optional step with some seeds is to dump them into water. The good seeds sink, and the bad seeds float. The water is decanted off and the seeds blotted dry and spread out to dry quickly.

Some seeds are round, or smooth, so they will slide down an inclined plane quicker than dirt or chaff.
 
Casie Becker
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Posts: 815
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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forest garden urban
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I think I could make the screens work. I'm going to be making at least one sieving screen this year for sieving the compost apart from our mulch.

Last year I had a large (extremely, ridiculously really) large ceramic serving platter that I used for winnowing but it fell off a shelf. The basil slid down the ceramic and left the chaff on top. If I ever find another platter that big, I'm buying it and then treating it like gold.
 
m louka
Posts: 9
Location: Vermont USDA zone 5a
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This is something I want to build this year. Anyone know if it works - volume, seed size/type?
it's open source and there are some good videos.

http://www.realseeds.co.uk/seedcleaner.html

 
LeRoy Martinez
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Here's something that recently occurred to me.
I typically plant 14 different varieties of tomatoes. I then slice the ripe tomatoes about 1/4" thick and just air dry them on a cheesecloth covered window screen. They dry very, very thin.They keep
for a long time. You can use them in stews or on pizzas or whatever.
What I am thinking is that since all the seeds are embedded in these slices why not just cut up a slice in small pieces and plant it?
Since the slices are air dried with no heat from a dehydrator they are no different than seeds you save except they are held together by the tomato slice.
I plan to try this next season.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Some great Ideas here. I think the thin sliced dried tomato should work well, I just read recently that slicing the tomato in half and squeezing the seed containing gel out into water and then letting it ferment removes the sprout inhibiting gel. but if the sliced dried tomato is covered with damp soil the bacterial action should remove the sprout inhibitor at just the right time as it does for the volunteer tomatoes from fallen fruit that has overwintered.

I am going to try the mortar and pestle on my basile the seeds are not shaking out as I expected.
 
Peter Ingot
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I also save up old sieves, collanders and various sizes of wire and nylon mesh. I make tough seed bags out of the legs of old pairs of jeans for drying flower stalks in. When everything is dry, I tie up the neck of the bag and bash it with a stick, until all the seeds have fallen to the bottom of the bag. A winnowing basket is a very useful thing to have, I got mine from Korea. Plastic plates and frisbees can also be handy. I winnow in the wind, over a big sheet if the weather is right.

Methods vary depending how much seed I am processing.

I designed the device in this video as a low tech way to thresh grain, but it seems to work well for all kinds of seed, especially when the quantities are big:





You could also borrow some nunchukas from a martial arts enthusiast, as these are essentially rice flails (presumably first used as weapons during a peasant's revolt)


 
Corey Schmidt
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Location: Kachemak Bay, Alaska (usda zone 6, ahs heat zone 1, lat 59 N, coastal, koppen Dfc)
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i saved some mustard, cress, and kale this year, but not a large amount (like a small jelly jar each of mustard and cress and a bit less kale). first I dried them out by the woodstove so the seed pods would break open by rolling them in my hands, then I put them through a screen, and then I had seeds and chaff in a pan, and I tilted the pan and shook it to roll the seeds down while blowing everything upward and ended up with a decent but not totally clean result, but it was a bit more work than I would have liked. I put some cress seeds in water and they sank while the chaff floated but once I dried the mass of seeds out it was all stuck together. they were still viable, though. I didn't try mustard and kale in water yet, I suspect they probably have less mucilage than the cress.
 
John Polk
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An optional step with some seeds is to dump them into water. The good seeds sink, and the bad seeds float. The water is decanted off and the seeds blotted dry and spread out to dry quickly.

This is not a reliable indicator. Many hard coated seeds will float until they have been scarified.

 
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