A green space for urban gardeners

Gather ye seed pods while ye may. But after that, what?

DSC01066DSC00813DSC01079I’ve learned a lot from other garden bloggers. At the very least I’ve been inspired to seek out new learning.

So a few months back when a fellow tomato fancier asked if I’d be interested in trading seeds with her, my curiosity was peaked.

(You see, for several years now I’ve been growing heirloom tomatoes using seeds purchased from a catalog. They’re cheap — less than $3.00 a packet — so paying for new ones every season seemed a minimal, yet high-yield investment.)

Eager to learn, I quickly acquiesced. Of course, I had no idea how to get the seeds from the tomatoes to swap. She assured me it was easy peasy.

That was in the spring and I hadn’t thought about it since then. But again, leave it to other bloggers…  During the last month chatter about seed collecting has seen an uptick. And after reading a MrBrownThumb post detailing the process of gathering marigold seeds that seemed simplicity itself, my thoughts went back to the idea of collecting seeds.

Then I remembered the furry pods that grew in at the base of my wildflower Texas bluebonnet — just below its vibrant blooms (second photo). Though the flowers are no more, the pods still stood on the stems. So when I ventured out onto the balcony Saturday — a day where Chicago temps soared to nearly 70 degrees — to clean away debris for the installment of my autumn plant purchases, I was driven instead to distraction.

I found myself on a seed hunt. I grabbed as many of the bluebonnet pods as I could and opened them to collect the pea-like seeds (top photo) cloistered within. Some were brown and dried while others were green and soft. I spread them across a paper plate and consigned them to a windowsill for further drying. I’m not sure if that’s proper protocol, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

I suppose only time will tell. (Or in the alternative, a few of you knowledgeable gardeners through your generous comments, smile.)

Then, I scavenged the marigolds, looking for the dead, fallen blossoms where their seeds were said to reside. Eureka! In no time I was able to collect gobs of them (third photo) and am looking forward to planting the seeds next year.

Alas, as for the tomatoes, I did a little research and found that retrieving and readying their seeds is a somewhat more arduous task.

I decided to leave it for another day and just enjoy the sunshine and revel in the small victory — in fact, one might say it was the size of a pea.


  Stephanie wrote @

What a day you had! MBT’s seed collecting post was very educational for me too. It is so nice to see that you collected lots of seeds from your garden. Gardening is so magical isn’t it? Have another wonderful day!

  vrtlaricaana wrote @

Last year I sowed marigold seeds that I bought and ones that I saved from year before.
I have to say that saved ones worked out much, much, much better!

  linda wrote @

Very cool Avis! When I was a kid I used to love collecting four-o-clock seeds, but haven’t done much seed collecting since. This year I collected a lot of seeds, some to use myself, and some to share. Late this summer I started a bunch of seedlings to share with my daughter and mom, and a few for myself, including blue and yellow columbines, blue baptisia, foxgloves, and lady’s mantle. It’s so satisfying starting plants from seeds. Really satisfies my frugal nature too.

  City Diggity wrote @

Blue baptisma? That sounds irresistible! I’m going to Google it immediately. If it’s an annual maybe we could work out an exchange 😉

  Wendy wrote @

that bluebonnet is beautiful! I also felt like you did – that a pack of seeds was cheap, but obviously saving your own seeds is about more than just the money saving, isn’t it?! It’s pretty thrilling that you can collect your own, start again, be totally self-sufficient.

  MrBrownthumb @Chicago Garden wrote @

hahah! Glad to see that you’ve been bitten by the seed saving bug.


  Jo wrote @

I haven’t saved any seeds at all this year. At the moment I’m trying out different varieties of veg at the allotment to see which I like best and which grows best. It’s all trial and error at the moment, but once I’ve made my decisions on which I will grow each year I’ll then start saving the seed.
Regarding the Salvia Hot Lips which I commented about on your last post, the flowers actually change on the plant. They can be red, white, or red and white. The summer blooms were mostly red but now that it’s flowering again they’re red and white. It’s quite fun really as you never know what you’re going to get.

  City Diggity wrote @

I remember you having some mighty fine eggplant (or aubergine, as you call it on that side of the pond ;-)) — worthy of seed-saving!
Funny you should bring up the salvia, because I had three kinds this year and they’re all over now, but I noticed one looks like it’s growing new foliage — like little chartreuse leaves… so we’ll see what happens. I’ll post a pic later this week. Cheers!

  Sylvana wrote @

I have found that in many cases saved seed works even better than the store bought plant/seed that they came from. And I really like the idea of not having to buy seeds (yes, more seeds!) every year.

  Dawn/LittleGreenFingers wrote @

I love saving seeds with the children – and then we make our own seed packets and sell them to raise money for our local pre-school.

  City Diggity wrote @

That’s a great idea! I love gifting people with things from the garden: basil pesto, vinegars, herb butters… Next up: seeds! And you can printout photos you took of the flower and paste on the packet for the artwork. A great project for kids!

  Lynne Jordan wrote @

I totally failed in my gadrening (didn’t even try) but it has been a great joy to see yours via the blog. Love the seed harvesting – very educational.

  Lou Murray, Ph.D. wrote @

Great to see people saving seeds and saving money at the same time. Just make sure that the seeds were from open-pollinated heirloom plants, not hybrids. The seeds from hybrids, sold as F1, will give you a wild mix of things resembling both parents as well as random crosses. Can be interesting if you have a lot of space. BTW, I’ve grown Japanese eggplant, cucumbers, bok choy and green onions in containers. Check out my blog at

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