Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hurrah for me - I've saved seeds!

Even though I'm a brand new gardener, I'm trying to learn a skill which many gardeners don't seem to bother with too much - I'm learning to save seeds from current plants for future plantings. This isn't as easy as you might think!

A few months back, someone accidentally left the garden gate open, and a dog got in and dug around in the area where my green bean plants were just getting started. The plants were about 3 inches tall at the time. Some got pulled up, others just got mashed a bit, and some were destroyed. I knew I wasn't going to get enough of a harvest from the few plants I had left, to actually put a serving of green beans on my family's plates any night at dinner, so I decided to let the few plants mature and try saving the seeds for a future planting.

I tried to read up on the details of this process, but as is so often the case, the details weren't really suited for my tropical yet mountainous location. Most of the information I found assumed that I would be trying to save the seeds for months, in order to wait out a winter and put them into the ground in the spring. Since I don't have a winter here (or a spring, for that matter), I thought it might be possible to take a short cut, and not dry the seeds as thoroughly as the directions indicated.

Unfortunately, in my first attempt, I didn't let the seeds mature long enough on the plants, before I tried to use them, and I also didn't dry them enough after I collected them. None of the ones we planted came up. I gave them plenty of time, but this was during our recent water shortage, so eventually I felt I should stop using water on this empty spot in the garden, and I gave up on them.

There were still some beans on the parent plants, so I left those to dry on the plants longer. While it was a bad time of the year for watering, it was a good time for drying. I gradually collected a handful of beans. Most every day I pulled another green bean, with about 5 or 6 seeds in it. If I pulled the bean too early, the seeds inside were white, and those didn't dry into plantable seeds. If I waited long enough, the seeds were a purplish-blue, and they dried - just sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter - into seeds that looked like the ones I'd purchased and used to start the plants in the first place.

Here are some of the seeds, just out of the garden:



Here is the bowl of dried and drying seeds:



Toward the end of last week Rachel planted these seeds in the garden, as well as a small number of seeds I still had left from my previously purchased seeds. By planting the purchased seeds, I'd have a control for my experiment. If the purchased seeds grew and the ones I harvested didn't then I'd figure I must have done something wrong in harvesting my seeds. If neither group grew, I'd figure my growing conditions were bad.

But . . .

This morning, there are green bean plants sprouting from both groups. I'm excited!

4 comments:

The Reader said...

Hey, congrats!! That sounds like a really awesome achievement!

Cory & Kris Thede said...

Yeah for you.

Our kids save lots of seeds for their dad. Sometimes when visiting other locations and enjoying their fruits we put out a seed plate to collect.

Fauche.

Jamie Jo said...

Hi, Trish. Where've you been? Are you off the forums for a while again?

My trouble is that the gardener takes MY flower seeds and plants them at other people's houses. When I find my zinneas and hollyhock all over town, I know where they originated....

Beth said...

Yeah!!!
I am so excited for you!
I save seeds from flowering plants and sometimes trees but I've never tried it with vegetables. Although one time we got watermelon plants coming up in our compost pile! : )
Glad your water crisis is past.