Saving seeds: Gardening on the cheap
Want to save money in the garden? Save seeds from your garden instead of buying them, or buying plants.
Two months ago I bought a packet of hybrid sunflower seeds off the seed rack at the local farm store — $2.99 — and discovered I’d purchased 10 seeds.Skip to next paragraph
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Even with inflated prices, starting plants from seeds is still an exercise in frugality. An ounce of lupine seed (Lupinus perennis) is $4.65, which is about half the price of one plant. And one ounce contains about 1,300 seeds, which is 1,285 more than I need.
All kinds of seeds can be saved
Over the years, I’ve started the usual suspects from seed -- annual and perennial flowers, vegetables, and even some hardy bulbs and woody species.
Growing any plant from seed is satisfying, but the gratification is multiplied if it’s a white oak (Quercus alba) that is likely to be around 100 years after I’m dead. Or I’m compost, as my son used to say.
For real frugality, however, you have to move from being a seed starter to a seed saver.
I’ve harvested seeds from my garden and from elsewhere: winter aconite seeds from my former home in Oberlin, Ohio; seeds from the tree lilac in front of the Middlebury Bagel & Delicatessen in Vermont; acorns from the Medina, Minnesota, street my daughter used to live on; and lilac seeds from bushes grown by Fr. John Fiala, a revered breeder of lilacs and flowering crabapples who died in 1990.
Choosing seeds to save
Many plants in our gardens won’t go to seed for another month or more, but it’s not too early to identify which plants you want to save seeds from.
Pick the most vigorous, those least bothered by insects and diseases, those with the largest fruits or flowers in the colors you like best. (A woman I knew saved seeds only from red zinnias, and after a few years she had developed a zinnia seed line that produced only red flowers.)
There’s one hitch to saving seeds: What you save from isn’t always what you get. If the seeds come from a hybrid cultivar, such as one of the hugely popular Calibrachoa hybrids that fill half the hanging baskets in America, the plants those seeds produce are unlikely to look like the parent plant.
If you like surprises, go ahead and save seeds from hybrids and see what they bring. I grew lilacs from seed taken from hybrid plants — not identical to the parent but handsome all the same.