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Saving Flower Seeds Saves Money
When Joan Dorsett plants the vast flower gardens that cover about 2 acres around her home in Northern Idaho, she doesn't worry about the cost of seeds. That's because she collects and saves all the flower seed she needs from one year to the next. With her abundant supply of seeds, she can afford to be generous come planting time.
  "Packaged seeds are pricey," she says. "With some varieties, you can get as few as 12 or 14 seeds in a package, and it can cost $1.59 to $1.79.
  "I have been saving seeds from my flowers for about eight years. Planting flowers is just something that I love to do and I've always enjoyed being resourceful," she says.
  According to Dorsett, the secret to successfully saving high-germination seeds is getting them "good and dry." It's best if they can do most of their drying on the stem, but close attention must be paid in order to collect them at the right time or they'll end up on the ground.
  One of the flowers that Dorsett grows a lot of is marigolds. Thanks to her ample seed supply, she plants a 40-ft. by 3-ft. hedge made with one row of tall Cracker Jacks in the center, and a row of regular border marigolds on each side, creating a big splash of oranges, yellows and bronze.
  "Our place is along the river, and I've had people come from clear across the river to see what kind of hedge it is because of the spectacularly bright colors. They're always surprised when they see that it's just common marigolds," she says.
  Dorsett also plants marigolds in her vegetable garden because they deter cabbage moths so she doesn't have to use pesticides.
  "Each year I collect and use anywhere from 6 to 8 gallons of marigold seeds alone," she says. "I don't know what you'd be talking about to buy that much, but it would be a lot!"
  Collecting flower seeds doesn't take very long. You can get a lot of seeds in an hour, she points out.
  In the fall, when the flower heads have dried sufficiently on the stems, Dorsett snaps them off and lays them out on a sheet to dry further. Usually, the petals have fallen off and all that's left are the pods.
  If the weather is warm, this can be done outside, but she usually does it indoors on a large table, or on the floor, "because you can't always depend on the weather."
  "Then you move the pods around with your hands you'll know when they're dry enough because the seeds just start falling out of the pods," she explains. "Some people dry them in the oven, but I never have, because I've had really good success with my method."
  Next, Dorsett rubs them between her thumb and forefinger. Some of the chaff comes off with the seeds, which is good, she says, because it "thins the seeds down when you're planting and makes them easier to sow." This is especially true for tiny seeds like poppies.
  After Dorsett has finished separating her flower seeds from the pods, she puts them in large bowls, pans or plastic bins where she can let them dry a little more and stir them around occasionally with her hand.
  Once she feels that they're totally dry, she puts them in 1-gal. zip lock bags and places them in a cool, dry place until spring planting begins. She uses her system on a wide variety of flower types.
  "The thing I enjoy about saving seeds is being as generous as I want to when planting time comes," she says.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Joan Dorsett, 13505 -121 Ave. N.E., Kirkland, Washington, 98034 (ph 425 823-5421).

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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2