Thursday, March 15, 2012

Seed Saving Tip #2

People often ask me where the seeds will be on a plant that has begun its reproductive stage (bolting in gardener jargon).

Plants have reproductive organs just like animals do. For plants, the seeds develop inside part of the female organ called the ovary. Inside the ovary are ovules. There can be one ovule or many- like in a tomato plant.

Kale in bloom. Notice the newly developing purple colored ovaries in lower right side

If you are thinking about saving seed from some plants, first read Seed Saving Tip #1 about population numbers. Then go look at the flowers when they are in bloom. Find the ovary (hint: investigate the base of the flower above the stem), and then watch it over time. After pollen fertilizes the ovules, the ovary will grow, to accommodate the seeds developing inside. When the ovary has dried down, the seeds should be inside, ready to be harvested.

Kale plants that are producing thousands of seeds. These seeds are not ready to harvest at this stage    

The pea plants in the background are dry enough to start harvesting seeds. Examine the color of the plants. This is the color that most recognize as a "dead" plant. 

When in doubt, crack open a seed pod and investigate the seed. Is it soft? Can your fingernail easily break open the seed coat? Sometimes the seeds need to dry down even further after the plants have dried and turned "buff colored" like the above pea plants. Harvest the plants and dry them down in an area that is safe from rain, birds, and other seed eaters for a week to ten days. The seed coat should be in better shape.

Good luck!

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