The Easy Way To Harvest Seeds

I want to learn, and hone, how to harvest seeds from my garden for the next year’s crop. To me, it is the ultimate in self reliance! No more seed ordering every year or the expense that goes with it. Not that my seed cost is huge, mind you, but that’s not the point. The problem is, I have a lazy streak that doesn’t do me any favors.

Because of that, I tend to try and learn the easier things first. It helps me feel like I am accomplishing something and able to see some results more quickly. I’ve fiddled around with seed saving before, successfully at that, but I feel I got lucky more than anything. I got a wild hair and decided to take a few pinto beans from a bag I had in the pantry and planted them to see what would happen. Well, the plant grew and a few pods survived the slug battle of 2014. I ended up getting a small handful of beans that eventually ended up in a soup pot but hey, I did it!

Beyond peas and beans, however, are things like carrots and onions. What about those? You plant them, then harvest and never see any signs of seeds. That’s because they are a biennial plant – meaning they need two years to fulfill its full life cycle. To get seeds, you need to let the plants overwinter and grow again. While the carrots and onions are still edible the second year, they aren’t very palatable.

The plants will flower and make seeds that you harvest when dried! Simple as that. You don’t need to let that many plants overwinter, either! Depending how large your crops are of each type of biennial, it’s unlikely you would need more than 5 (3 should be sufficient in all honesty). Each plant will give you dozens, if not hundreds, of seeds but it’s always wide to plan for crop failure. If you only have 2 carrots that you let overwinter and they both fail, you’re sunk. It’s also a good idea to not have all the ones you’re going to let ‘go to seed’ in one area. This will reduce the chance of it all going bad or succumbing to pests or other issues.

To me, it seems lazy – almost like you’re cheating! “All I have to do is not pick a few carrots or onions and I get seeds?” Yes. Now, the trick is to make sure you leave behind a few each year for the next year’s crops. Over time, and so many seasons, your plants will have evolved some to better survive in the climate you are growing in. It’s just nature’s way of adapting! A fine example is the garlic we grow. We got several bulbs from a lady who has been growing the same variety in her garden for over 20 years. The variety is a Killarney Red which grows well in a wet climate in general. We have a really wet climate and it holds up to the hard winds and feet of rain it will get in a growing season.

Speaking of garlic, and growing it, this is another ‘seed’ that is just about the easiest seed to harvest and plant! The cloves themselves are the seed! Take note: garlic will not split properly unless you plant it in the fall before the first freeze. For more information on how I learned that particular lesson, click here (will open in new tab)!

There are many other plants that are biennials and make for some incredibly easy seed harvesting:

  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
  • Leeks

With a little research, you’ll realize that you can get off the revolving seed ordering ride and start saving your own instead! Just make sure they are good and dry before storing them. Generally speaking, the flowers that will grow seed pods dry out and you just have to shake the pod into a bowl to get the seeds. See? Incredibly easy!

Do you harvest seeds to plant the next year? Share below, including tips and tricks – you may just inspire someone (or save them a headache!). 

Tips For Gardening With Kids

Gardening with kids is something I don’t have much experience with. I have plans on getting my 5 year old nephew playing in the dirt with me this year but beyond that, it’s not something I’ve been able to experience. Many people ask me for tips on the subject and while I can make suggestions, I don’t know if any of it would really work. I turned to Ann from SumoGardener.com to help shed some light on the subject.


Kids are always curious to learn new things and love playing in the dirt. One of the best activities to feed a child’s curiosity is gardening. It gives children an opportunity to learn some of the most important skills in life: getting food! It also increases awareness of nature, the environment, and weather: all while having fun!

If this is your first time gardening with kids, the tips below will surely help you and your children to make gardening fun and exciting!

Gardening Lessons

The first thing that you need to do is to provide some lessons to the children about gardening, age appropriate of course. Encourage questions to help keep their interest. A great idea, if you have space, is to make a patch that is just for them. Letting them keep a journal to write down the things they’ve planted and the progress of them over time. Not all kids will enjoy gardening but they will enjoy spending time with you!

Kid Based Gardening

After explaining what gardening is, now is the time to show them! Explaining as you are planting the first few seeds helps them see how it’s done, but always make sure to not do everything for them! Let the kids provide ideas and help them with constructing the plan and planting the seeds. Let them learn how to be responsible when it comes to caring for the plants in their garden patch. 

Avoid Chemicals

Since you will be gardening with your kids, it is advisable not to use anything that is based on chemicals. Make gardening fun for kids and safer by not incorporating any products that have harsh or man-made chemicals in them. It would also be ideal to assess the soil for any lead and contaminants before letting the kids start their gardening activities in there. Getting bagged soil lets you skip this step.

Edible Plants

For people who don’t know, kids are more willing to eat vegetables and fruits that they have planted themselves. Most kids today don’t like to eat vegetables and fresh fruit and letting them plant these foods will make the kids want to try and eat them. You also need to make sure that the kids will be the one to harvest the plants.

Gardening Kits and Tools for Kids

There is gardening equipment that is perfect to be used by kids. Normally sized garden tools are too heavy for little arms! You can, of course, assist them but if possible, get some garden tools made for kids that will fit their hands better and keep things fun!

Not everyone has the space or time to be able to have a garden patch dedicated to their child to learn with. That doesn’t mean you have to be left out!! There are several tabletop options, too! There are garden kits specifically for kids to learn with and they can choose either food or flowers to grow.

Let Kids Experience Wildlife

Teach the kids the importance of adding bird feeders and maybe a birdbath in the garden. Animals will visit your garden no matter what! Tell them that these animals are not good to be near your plants, which is why adding feeders may help.

You can also create a small fishpond for kids to get to know how the fish and plants work together to make a little ecosystem!

Decorating the Garden

Lastly, let the kids help you when it comes to decorating the garden. There are a lot of ways to decorate your garden, and the best way is to choose something where their creative skills will be enhanced. Of course, guiding them along and supervising is a good idea! Decorating the garden can help them learn the skill of thinking ahead – if your decorations inhibit plant growth, you are being counterproductive!


 

I’m Ann. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening. This is a subject I enjoy the most. I have been a fan of flowers and plants ever since I was a kid. My blog: http://sumogardener.com

Slug Battle 2014

Last year my garden was ravaged by slugs. I went out every night with a flashlight and a salt shaker to wage war upon this common pest. Slugs are so prevalent here that during the Blueberry Festival held in August, they have slug races and contests for the biggest slug. Our cool, wet climate is pure heaven for these garden-devouring gastropods and while I always knew we had a healthy population, I learned more than I ever wanted to last gardening season.

Slug_Battle_2014_Title

Being the utter newbie I was (and pretty much still am), I did not realize just how versatile slugs can be when it comes to gaining access to food. The plastic that covered the greenhouse went all the way down to the ground and was tucked up under the floor poles but apparently not good enough. My first real hint that I had a problem was on my green beans.  Huge leaves bigger than my hand with fingers spread open were ruined in a single night. Then it spread to the tomato plants, the carrots and celery. They avoided the onions for the most part but the absolute worst hit was the peas. Oh ye tiny gods they were merciless! Eating the leaves and crawling on the stems at soil level, they worked their way up and it was a non stop battle all summer long. The peas died from the soil level up slowly so I was able to harvest some, but certainly not as much as I wanted!

To battle them, I started with the beer traps that I recalled my mother and grandmother using. I got the cheapest brew I could find and dug holes into the areas hit hardest. It worked to some extent but cleaning out the traps and buying beer all the time was inconvenient and gross. It is also not very sustainable and can get expensive. Using too much salt can ruin your soil. I did not and will not use chemicals in my garden so of course I went researching online for natural alternatives. Other than what I was doing already (night missions armed with my flashlight and trusty salt shaker of doom) the other methods for repelling and getting rid of slugs included:

  • Crushed eggs shells. Slugs cannot cross it because it will cut them. This also has the added benefit of adding minerals back into the soil.
  • Sand. Same as with crushed egg shells, the sand will be too rough for the slime trail to protect the slug.
  • Beer traps. Mentioned above, beer traps lure the slugs away from the plant and toward the yeasty scent of beer. They fall into the cup and die.
  • Letting ducks or chickens in. Ducks and chickens reportedly go crazy for slugs. At a certain point though, you really do not want these animals traipsing around your vegetables.
  • 51Ab5ZjYGtL._SL1500_Copper wire or tape. This one got my attention. Several sources say that using copper wire or better yet, copper tape, will keep the slugs from going past the line. The metal reacts with their slime and they back off.
  • Sluggo. This is an organic alternative that is safe around household pets but I have not tried it yet!

This year I am going to apply several of these defenses and repellent methods. First will be the copper tape. I am thinking I should have gotten the thicker 2 inch tape instead of the 1/2 inch but I will make due as I got two spools for the cold frames. I will put one strip around about 3-4 inches down from the top of the cold frame lid and another strip 2 inches down from the first.  Some reports say that slugs will bridge over the tape and the hope it two strips will help avoid that. I am also going to save the egg shells we get and, after a quick boil to clean them, crush and apply to the soil as a cover.

I also had an idea of taking some kind of glue along the tops of the cold frames, then sprinkling and pressing sand into it. Once it has dried, the sand will stay and still be sticking out with their tiny sharp points that will deter the slugs. I will be sure to do another post on how I have set up my defenses and how Slug Battle 2014 progresses. First though, we need to fix our green house roof. That is the weekend/evening project for the next couple weeks. Keep watching for a post on how it all turns out!

Greenhouse Before the Snow

Greenhouse Before the Snow

After the snow broke the PVC pipe frame

After the snow broke the PVC pipe frame

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