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WHAT’S BLOOMIN’

Gardening column: How to start your own seed bank

Friday, February 15, 2013 - 12:01 am

Seeds of vegetables and plants of all sorts are expensive when purchased from a supplier — and you are limited to the number of seeds in a packet.

Although seed companies make every effort to sell fresh seeds each year, it is important to make sure the date on the packages says “2013.” Having said that, I have been disappointed more than once when only a few seedlings came up, and they were weak and unhealthy and I couldn't coax them into becoming garden-sized transplants.

As a result, I have found many vegetable and flower seeds from my previous seasons' plants germinate when planted in soil that was tilled and warm — and they grew into sturdy little transplants that did very well over the season and produced a lot of fruit.

Why not change the odds in your favor by saving your own seed? I would like to encourage you to turn back the clock to the days when gardeners routinely saved seed every year — not necessarily to save dollars, but because that was the way it was done. To help you do that, here are a few tips to show you how easy it would be to start your own seed bank — a bank that will have fresh seeds to draw from every growing season from now on:

•When you purchase a favorite type of tomato, green bell peppers or hot peppers, cucumbers, squash of various kinds, melons (actually, all sorts of fruits and vegetables), you are getting more for the money than you realize. Every edible, whether fruit or vegetable, is full of seeds.

•Don't discard the seeds — remove them from the vegetable or fruit, wash well and let them air dry on a paper towel or coffee filter. When they are thoroughly dry, put them in an old prescription bottle and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until time to plant. (Don't forget to add a label so you'll remember what they are).

•This is an excellent way to harvest heirloom seeds from produce you purchase at our local farmers markets. Vendors bring naturally grown produce to those markets, and many of the varieties being offered each year come from heirloom plants.

•Let some of your favorite cool-weather vegetables — lettuces, radishes, sweet peas, etc. — go to seed so you can have them for successive plantings and for your fall garden when the temperatures begin to cool in late August.

•In every garden, at least one plant of every kind should be allowed to go to seed just for this purpose.

•Your favorite annuals, and even perennials, can be done this way as well. Always let the seed pods dry on the plant. This guarantees the seed is mature and will be viable in the future.

•If the seed is gathered from a hybrid flower or perennial, it may not be viable or, if it does germinate, it may revert back to the ordinary original plant that was used to create the hybrid. Instead of trying to plant seed from a known hybrid, propagate by taking cuttings and rooting them — which can easily be done along with saving seed.

•Master Gardeners will be selling seed from many unusual plants at their booth at the Home and Garden Show beginning at the end of this month. I'll share more about that exciting event in next week's column.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.