Gardening Tips and Highlights Waushara County Master Gardeners

Garden Highlights: Homegrown seeds

August is synonymous with abundance: tomatoes, ripen plump, and juicy bell peppers sweeten to sugary red; zinnias flaunt their crayon-colored blossoms, and the musky fragrance of cantaloupe wafts from tangled vines. It’s harvest season, so perhaps you’re busy canning tomatoes or freezing pepper slices for winter pizzas. But there’s another crop ready for picking, and it’s time to collect seeds for next year’s garden.

There’s immense pleasure in seed-to-seed gardening. As you come to appreciate a plant’s life cycle through seed saving, your small, humble act grounds you in the deep history of human life. You may be gathering seeds from a cucumber developed by a gardener in the 1800’s, or collecting the easy-to-harvest offspring of zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, and hibiscus just as your great-grandmother once did. She knew that most seeds were ripe for harvesting when they were hard and dry.

Here’s the simple test she likely performed: lightly pinch a sampling between your fingernails. If the seeds don’t dent, they’re mature. Many of our favorite summer veggies are actually fruits that hide their progeny in tasty packages. Tomato and melon seeds are ripe when the fruit is ready to eat. Green peppers are immature, but deep red peppers contain harvestable seeds.

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