Raising plants from seeds is a great sense of achievement for most gardeners and when the seeds are the ones you collected for free it is even better.
All plants that you have growing in your gardens seed at sometime, with some plants that maybe years away but with annual plants it is at maturity each year.
Annual plants that are left to seed and die back will have produced fertile seeds if pollination has occurred successfully.
If these seeds are left to fall naturally to the soil then at some ideal time for them, they will germinate and produce seedlings.
Two things prevent this happening the first being; you removing the dying plants before they can distribute seed or in the case of many vegetables you have harvested before the crop goes to seed and removed flowering vegetables before they set seed.
When you have left something to flower and drop fertile seeds; then later on if you don’t recognize those seedlings as preferred plants, you may kill them thinking they are weeds.
It is a learning curve to know what is a wanted plant and an unwanted plant but with a little close observation you can score a lot of free plants by allowing mature plants to seed.
When plants produce seed pods that are drying out, then more than likely there are fertilised seeds in the pods which you can harvest for sowing sometime.
This applies to a wide range of plants from roses with rose hips, natives, ornamentals, flowers, vegetables and fruit.
How many of us have eaten a ripe plum off their tree and spat out the stone?
Months or maybe even years later up pops a plum seedling which will eventually grow into another plum tree, similar or even different from your named plum tree.
There are a number of fruits that we buy that have seeds, which we can collect at no extra cost.
This includes tomatoes, capsicums, beans, peas, pumpkin, passion fruit, melons, apples, citrus, stone fruit, figs, even strawberries (which are not a fruit as their seeds are on the outside.)
I have at some time grown all in the list from purchase fruit (Fruit, the definition is one that has seeds inside, which includes beans, capsicum etc).
If you come across a special fruit or one that is more difficult to get the seed of from seed packets then you should certainly save the seed and plant them some time.
Whether it is successful or not it really does not matter as its free and a bit of a challenge.
Recently we found two Asian foods one type of snake bean and two types of bitter melon.
I collected a few seeds from them and with the snake bean just sat the whole bean on a late afternoon windowsill to dry out and mature the seeds inside.
They are now all growing happily in one of my glasshouses and later we shall find out if they have come true to form.
Sometime ago I found Dragon Fruit for sale and now have a big specimen which should be approaching flowering time soon and also a number of baby ones.
Collecting some seed from fruit you have grown or purchased is just the matter of removing them from the fruit, laying on a bit of paper towel to allow to dry. Once they are dry you can either plant them or store them.
The best way to store is to write on the paper towel what they are then place inside a sealed glass jar and then into the fridge where they can wait till you are ready to plant.
Several types of seeds can be stored in the same jar. The fridge storage means they will keep very well for a long period of time.
I have tomato seed over 30 years old that will still give me about 20 to 50% strike rate.
The fridge also gives the seeds a false winter so when they come out they will think its spring and germinate better as a result.
Spring is normally the best time to bring out seeds you wish to sprout as the day light hours are extending and many seeds relate to that.
Self sown seeds lay dormant until the conditions are ideal for them to sprout, that means light hours, temperature and moisture levels.
When they germinate they send down (in most cases) a long tap root just as the trunk sprouts upwards.
This long tap root has secondary roots formed off it making the plant sturdy and deep rooting.
This enables the plant to gather food & moisture better than transplants.
So where possible sow your seeds where the plant is going to grow to maturity.
Seeds germinated in cell packs don’t have the advantage of deep rooting but they do have the advantage of less root disturbance when transplanting.
Punnet grown seedlings will suffer the most root damage when you separate the seedlings, but another aspect comes into play, the damaged roots will be quicker to produce side roots and also generate a bigger root system.
Normally this time of the year germinating seeds is not a problem as the soil temperatures are supposed to be over 10 degrees.
In a glasshouse where the air temperature is warm seeds in containers will germinate better as long as adequate moisture is applied to the medium.
Before you cover your seeds spray them with a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) at 20 ml per litre of water. This natural product stimulates the germination to kick in.
When germinating in trays or cell packs use a good compost such as Daltons or Oderings as the base then with a sieve you sieve some of the same mix to make a nice layer of friable smaller particles.
It’s onto this you spread your seeds, spray with MBL and cover by sieving more compost.
In the garden sieve the soil for a seed raising bed. Forget the seed raising mixes they are a waste of time as well as being too expensive when compared to the herbicide free two brands I have mentioned.
Keeping seeds of your favorite vegetables is very important because seed strains disappear overnight as seed companies replace varieties.
Also certain companies want to control all the food seeds in the world and they buy up smaller seed companies then provide only the seeds they have sole rights to.
One of these companies has in certain countries persuaded the Governments to pass laws making the collection of one’s own seeds illegal.
This has made life for the native farmers intolerable and to compound matters often the seeds that are then sold to them are not suitable for their growing conditions and result in either poor or no crops.
Can’t happen in NZ you say? Us older gardeners know that plenty excellent named varieties of vegetables have disappeared and the newer varieties are not half as good.