Ever since I became a member of Seed Savers Exchange out of Decorah, Iowa, I have toyed with the idea of actually saving some of the seed from the plants I’ve grown. Before I came out here to the ranch and I was still living in the city, I just couldn’t carve out time to really study the topic. It seemed beyond me. What should I harvest? How long did I need to wait? Which plant of a particular kind should I pick from?
This year I finally got a lot of sunflowers to grow, among other things. We built a really good fence around the plot so the feral burros couldn’t eat them. Last year I planted them in front of our house because they were so cheery and beautiful. I loved to drive up with them to greet me. I mistakenly thought we could coast by and not have the burros notice that they were there and for the longest time this seemed to be true. Then one day I walked out the front door and stopped cold in my tracks. Nary a sunflower was left. Sigh. Hey, as one of my old woman friends said they just doin’ what come natural.
Burros cleaning up after the cows this past winter.
OK, I get it but what about me? Ain’t I doin’ what come natural and does that entail letting the burros mow everything down? The fence wasn’t that easy to build. We have what I call unnaturally hard soil in our geographical area and pounding the T-posts took weeks even in winter. But by late winter the fence was up and I was all ready to have a bountiful harvest without it all going bye-bye.
Pollinators happy as they can be to find such a meal.
I’m thrilled to say I have skyscraper sunflowers of many types and colors. Then I noticed that some of the heads were drying up and getting crunchy. We had plenty of pollinators from early spring and even as I write they’re still out there doing their job in mid-July. I just looked at those dried heads and said to myself Seed Saving! What the hay!
Sunflowers are the easiest of seeds to save because they show you when they are ready. Just take the dried-up brown heads and pop the seeds out. It’s as easy as pie.
Step One: Cut off the dried head. It will be crunchy and brittle. Pick the plants that had the most beautiful flowers or whatever quality you enjoyed when they were blooming. That way you’ll have the best chance of having those same attributes when you plant them again.
Step Two: Rub off the flower stamens. You might want to put on your gloves at this point. The heads can be tough on hands.
Step Three: Pop or rub out the seeds unto a clean surface.
Step Four: Pick out as much “chaff” as you can. Just neater that way.
Step Five: pour them in a clean dry jar. You can see I wasn’t that careful about the chaff and that’s OK because the big seeds are easy to recover. Puncture a few aeration holes in the lid to keep any residual moisture from collecting and store in a cool dry place until you’re ready to plant.
Now I can hardly wait to try some other plants next year or maybe even later in the season. Maybe cucumbers. Maybe tomatoes. Happy seed saving!
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