Putting the Garden to Bed but Looking to the Future!

This is always a busy time of the year. The gardens are still producing but not as wildly as they were. Some plants are going to seed and others are being let to go to seed but all of those seeds are my hope for a future garden next year. They are also something that I sell so that others can have beautiful food growing for themselves next year, too! I try to make the packets attractive but it's how I save the seeds that matter to next years garden.

Packaging up seeds for sale

The first ones that go to seed are the herbs. I've been letting the oregano and basil go with an eye towards saving their seed. These great herbs are wonderful self-seeders and will come back year after year in the same place. The oregano grows next to the mint and both are strong and healthy and will come back in the very same area again next year. Mint doesn't go to seed as much as the rest but it grows from the roots up all over. I have to cut it back to keep it in check and so, I made a cute little wreath out of some of it.

Dried Mint Wreath

I am saving the oregano seeds, though. They are prolific but beautifully fragrant. Next year, I will replant oregano wherever I find an empty space along the driveway border rocks. To save this seed, I just take the seed heads and put them on a tray in the sun to dry. They are easy to thresh off and give copious seeds.

Oregano seeds ripening on the plant. Each of those little brown segments is a seed.

I've planned on the Deck Garden becoming the permanent Basil Bed and so, every now and then I pull my hand down some of those long seed heads and scatter the seed over the entire area. I also take the long brown seed spikes off the plant and after a few days drying inside, I draw my hand down the stem to remove the seed coats. I give them a few spins in my spice grinder to break up the seed coats and release the tiny black basil seeds. The seeds are far too small to be harmed by the grinder. Then I sift them through a fine strainer and gently blow away the chaff. I store those tiny seeds in paper packets, as I do all my seeds.

Basil flower spikes drying on the plant.

I love the huge orange marigolds scattered here and there in the gardens. They were big and bouncy and deterred pests everywhere I planted them. They are always welcome in my garden. They are also prolific seeders and so I will have marigold volunteers next year. I also want to save those seeds and that's very easy. I leave the flowers on the plants until they dry up into little husks. Then, I just remove the husk and save the seeds.

Dried flower heads full of Marigold seeds.

We planted four heirloom varieties of tomatoes just so I could save the seeds when the time came.. We have Ace - a big sandwich slicer, Blushing Pink - a nice salad size, Large Cherry - another good salad tomato and Roma - my main paste and sauce tomato. Saving tomato seeds is a little bit more involved than the herbs.

Seed packets for Green Pepper and Tomatoes

First, I keep the prettiest fruits out for seed saving. I want the best the bushes have to offer. I let them ripen to a lovely dark red and then I slice them open. I remove the gel inside that surrounds the seeds and collect it in a mason jar. I add water from my tap - which is pure well water. For people on a municipal water supply, use distilled water for this step as chlorine will kill the seeds. I stir the water, gel and seeds and then cover with a clean napkin and put a ring on the jar. I set it in a quiet corner of the kitchen to ferment.

This is a nice plump Blushing Pink salad tomato.

You want to harvest this gel with the seeds inside.

These are Roma Tomato seeds starting the ferment process.

Put a clean napkin over the jar, screw on a ring and set in a quiet dark corner of the kitchen.

A couple of times, every day, I stir the water and check it to see if the seeds have released yet. Eventually, after three or so days, a layer of mold will form on the surface of the water and the seeds will have sunk to the bottom. Carefully pour off the water, mold and tomato pulp, being sure to leave the seeds in the bottom of the jar. Rinse the seeds with clean distilled water until all of the pulp is gone and the seeds are clean. Pour off all the water and spread the seeds out on a paper plate. Be sure to write the type of seed on the plate. Do not use a napkin, they are hard to get off when they are dried. Leave them sit on your counter until dried and then store in a paper packet.

Green pepper well on the way to being completely ripe. Try to leave them on the vine as long as you can.

Sweet Bell Peppers are even easier. Let them ripen on the vine until they are fully red. Pull them as the skin just starts to look a little wrinkly. Cut those open and discard the flesh. It's past it's prime. Remove the seeds from the core and lay out on a paper plate, the same as you do tomatoes. Leave to dry and then store in a paper packet.

Cucumber ripening on the table.

Here is one that is ripening on the vine.

I'm waiting for the cucumbers to finish ripening. I have one mostly yellow one on the table but I have three ripening on the vine. When they are fully yellow, I will cut them open and scoop out the seeds. I'll remove the pulp in a bowl of cool water and lay the seeds out on a paper plate to dry - again, don't forget to write the kind of seed you are drying on the plate.

You can see there are still a lot of green beans on the vines but these two pods are drying now. As soon as they turn all brown, I will pull them.

Beans are the one seed that I save to plant next year and also save to eat! I grow White Beans as green beans. They are great producers and I still have green beans on the vine. I am letting them go now, though because I have a fondness for Ham -n- Beans and I've filled the freezer with green beans and filled jars with dried green beans. I think I have enough.