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Monday, May 23, 2016

Saving seeds

By now, most seeds of biennial plants in your garden, will have formed and dried on their stalks. It's time to pick them and bring them into storage, if you hope to multiply your crops in the springtime. Bienniel plants such as fennel, parsley, carrot and parsnip produce their seeds in the second year of their growth and hold them high on stalks that catch the wind, helping with drying and dispersal. If you are not quick, those seeds will be blown away and though they will probably strike and grow, it'll be in a place not of your choosing. Collecting and storing them safely will give you control over how many and where you will grow for the next round. I always collect seed in the late morning, once the moisture from dew or overnight rain has evaporated. Sometimes, in an emergency situation brought on by day after day of rain, I'll collect while the seeds are still damp, but that's far from ideal. Drying on the stalk, out of doors, is always best. Collect into a woven basket, if you have one, and spread your seeds out on newspsper for further drying, indoors and out of the sunlight. If you've got a spare room where you can spread seeds and papers out, you are very fortunate. Once seeds are perfectly dry, consign them to a jar or a tin, then store them in a dark place until spring. I always sow a percentage of autumn-collected bienniel seeds in autumn, out of doors, in soil that is exposed to the winter conditions, knowing that nature does it this way and as an insurance against losing the seeds I've dried and stored inside for any unforseen reason. Those seeds that are safely tucked away in their containers need to be checked occasionally for fungi and insect problems that may have resulted from not quite careful enough preparation. You can ensure against both by giving the seeds a brief, 3 day stay in the freezer. The cold will kill those organisms without harming the seeds. Remember to lable. It's worryingly easy to forget what you sequestered, once 3 or 4 months has gone by.

Not carrot, parsley, parsnip or fennel seeds

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