Margaret Lauterbach

Margaret Lauterbach: There are plenty of reasons to save seeds

Now is the time for flowers, ornamental or vegetable, to set fruit or seed so it is the right time to think about saving seeds. The obvious bonus for saving seed is to save money, but there is more than one reason for us to save our own open-pollinated or hybrid seeds, if you intend to de-hybridize them.

1. Your seed now has one season of acclimatizing behind it, and that’s a good start. You’re on your way to developing your own landrace or at least heirloom variety.

2. You know you like the flower or food that came from that seed, so you don’t have to depend on a verbal description or fancy photo to sell you on that variety.

3. You can create gifts for people out of your extra seed. Package seeds such as dill, fennel, parsley, caraway, coriander (cilantro), basil and others for herb garden planting or for use in the kitchen.

4. Seeds give you a strong connection to the land and to nature.

5. You’ll learn more about your own gardening, what varieties cross with your favorite squash, for example.

6. Learning about cross-pollination leads to more healthy concern about preserving pollinators and leads to opportunity to do your own pollinating to create new varieties.

7. By saving seeds you’re protecting that variety from extinction. Varieties of vegetables, for instance, are quickly dropped by seed vendors if sales are few. Some sources claim we’ve lost over 90 percent of vegetable varieties over the past 80 years.

Seed saving references are generally informative about how to grow plants to seed, and how to collect that seed. Suzanne Ashworth’s “Seed to Seed” is an outstanding reference. Another is Carol Deppe’s “Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties,” although this reference is more technical in some areas.

One rule of thumb for collecting seed is to wait until seeds are hard, and that usually means brown or black in color. Once seeds are saved and thoroughly dried, most can be refrigerated or even frozen. If seeds aren’t thoroughly dry, freezing can destroy them.

Seeds should be kept out of direct sunlight, at least in a cool dark environment. When you collect seeds, it’s very important for you to label them by the plant variety you’ve collected seeds from. If you think you’ll remember, you probably won’t, and have an assortment of “purse seeds” like a friend has. OK, I have some too.

If you’re collecting seeds of wildflowers, be sure you know what is permitted in the area you want to collect. BLM rules may differ from National Forest rules, but in any case, please don’t try to collect seeds from what is apparently a rare plant. Let it seed itself.

Hoping for extended warmth

Summer has flown by, or has it?

If we have an autumn similar to last year’s, we’ll have warmth and heat into mid-November. We used to have an early cold snap, followed by a few weeks of Indian summer before winter arrived. One year it was bone-chilling cold during “Art in the Park,” the weekend after Labor Day.

I’m hoping for the warmth and heat alternative.

We picked some winter squash in my garden a week ago because stems were tough and we were not able to penetrate squashes with a thumbnail. Last year I harvested some butternut squash about this time of late summer, and the vines developed a second crop that matured on the vine.

Squash bugs were not as numerous in my garden this year, possibly because we replaced the basketweave fence on the west with spaced dog-ear boards. The basketweave design had afforded numerous wintering havens for adult squash bugs.

Send garden questions to or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.