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Growing Alaska: Harvesting seeds

Drying seed pods, not quite ready to harvest.
Drying seed pods, not quite ready to harvest.(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 3:06 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As the temperatures cool and the growing season starts nearing its end, this is the perfect time to harvest seeds from the garden. Master Gardener Sheila Macias uses seeds harvested from her gardens to expand them.

“I have poppies and columbines and all kinds of flowers that I save the seeds for, and that’s a lot of how I’ve filled out my nine flower gardens,” she said.

For Macias, harvesting seeds and spreading those seeds is fun.

“I like to save my seeds and experiment and see if my purple columbine seeds are really going to be purple columbines, or did they cross pollinate and now I have a light purple and white,” she said.

When one harvests seeds, it’s basically doing what nature does, only with a little more focus.

“At the end of the season, all of the plant would be dry and brown,” Macias said. “Those pods would open, the wind would start and those seeds would disperse. That’s how it happens in nature. You just have to wait for them to be completely ready. If you take them early, the seeds are not going to be viable.”

To harvest seeds, wait until the pod is dry and the seeds rattle inside. The top of the pod will typically open a bit. Macias says to dump out the seeds on a paper plate to let them dry fully before putting them in a small paper envelope. Don’t forget to mark the envelope with the type of seed in order to know what seeds are available next year.

Some seeds also need to freeze before they are viable. This is as simple as putting the envelope with the seeds in the freezer for winter.

And flowers aren’t the only plants that have seeds that can be harvested for next year.

“If you’re a beginning gardener, the easiest seeds to harvest are the seeds that are self-pollinated,” Macias said. “Which are going to be peppers, tomatoes, peas and beans. Start with those and experiment for the next year.”

Tomato seeds have a “gooey substance” around them that must be removed before storing. Macias says to soak them in water for about two weeks.

“Continue to swirl them around and it will break down that mucus around the seeds,” Macias said. “Then after about two weeks, all the mucus is gone, you drain the water, put them on a paper towel, let them dry, and then you’ll want to put them in a paper envelope, not in a plastic bag.”

Harvesting seeds also gives people a chance to share with friends and neighbors.

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