As autumn begins, it is the perfect time to try your hand at saving seeds! Many plants are almost ready to put their seeds out, or already have. In this post, we’ll go over some of the basics of seed saving from pods. Feel free to experiment and have fun!
Pods are protective layers that can hold a great array in size and number of seeds, and can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The important thing to remember about pods is to allow them to mature on the plant. A dry, brown pod is a ready pod! In many cases, the pod may split, exposing the seeds. This is when you know they are ready to be harvested. If you harvest them too soon, the seeds may not be viable.
If you are worried that seeds will fall out of the pods before you are ready to harvest them, a tried-and-true strategy for collection is bagging the immature pods. Lightly secure a small bag or piece of cloth fully around the pod. Be sure that the material you use allows air and light to reach the pods, and that you secure the material firmly enough that it will not blow off, but not so tight as to damage the plant. The bag will catch any seeds as the pods burst open, with the added benefit of critters not being able to get to the seeds before you do.
|You can see in this photo that the milkweed pod is still green. The seeds will not be ready for saving yet. Thanks to Delco Master Gardener Christine Coulter for the milkweed pods!|
|This milkweed pod is bursting and is perfect for saving!|
|These cleome pods are still green. They need some more time.|
|This photo shows a sense of the progression of a cleome pod from green to completely dried out. You can see a bag would have been helpful in capturing these seeds!|
One of the nice things about saving seeds in pods is that they are typically already dried out and ready for storage. To be certain no moisture remains on the seeds, you can spread them out on a paper towel for a few days. Some seeds, such as the milkweed, may have other elements (like fluff) attached to the seed which should be removed prior to storage.
When your seeds are dry, store them in a paper envelope (plastic or glass is OK if you are certain there is no moisture left in the seeds). If you plan on sowing the seeds next spring, you can store them in the refrigerator as a cold stratification method to imitate the winter temperature and assist in germination. If you choose to store your seeds outside of the refrigerator, make sure the location is cool, dry, dark, and out of reach of pests.
|These cleome pods are dry and ready for seeds to be saved. The paper towel helps remove any remaining moisture from the seeds prior to storage.|
A quick word to seed swappers and sellers: be careful about saving seeds from plants that are patented. Some plant varieties are patented by their creators, and in many cases it is illegal to save seeds from these plants. If you are not sure, check your variety online prior to saving seeds, or do not share your seeds with others.
Have fun saving!
You can find more fall seed-saving tips from the Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners here.