By: Charleen Barr
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County
Why Become a Seed Saver?
Seed saving is as old as gardening. Long ago gardeners considered seed from their favorite plants to be treasured and worth saving from year to year. Today seeds and seedlings are relatively inexpensive and there are new plants to try every year. So why become a seed saver? Aside from the politics, capitalism and biotechnology arguments presented by growers, the bottom line reason for saving seeds is because we have plants we love and want to grow again. It could be the perfect pink flower, the best tasting tomato or a champion zucchini. Gardeners never know when a seed company will discontinue a favorite seed to make way for new varieties. Saving seed is the only guarantee.
How to know what seeds to save is critical. Garden plants are wind, insect or self-pollinated. Open insect pollinated plants, heirlooms or self-pollinated plants are the only varieties that will grow true from seed, meaning the seedlings will be exactly like the parents. These seeds are worth saving.
Seeds that have been hybridized will grow into a variety of plants with some characteristics of either or both parent plant. Many hybridized plants are being currently sold in garden centers and stores. Hybridizing creates plants with desirable traits, such as color, multiple petals, disease resistance or size.
There are many plants that will grow true from seed, and saving and sharing these seeds have given birth to the seed savers phenomenon. Self-pollinated plants are the easiest to save and include beans, chicory, endive, lettuce, peas, and tomatoes. Heirloom flower seeds from cleome, foxgloves, hollyhock, nasturtium, sweet pea, and zinnia are easy to save.
In order to have pure seeds from plants that cross pollinate with others in their species means needing to physically separate the different species from one another by (a) planting only one variety of species; (b) planting different varieties a great distance from each other—even as far as one-fourth mile radius or more for peppers and squash; (c) Plant varieties that flower at different times; and/or (d) use a physical barrier, such as a row cover to cover one variety at a time so that each variety is allowed enough exposure time to be pollinated among its own kind.
The method and timing for saving seeds includes choosing the best quality plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables from which to save seeds. Look for the crop with the best disease resistance, vitality, flavor and productivity. Next year’s plants will only be as good as this year’s seed.
Harvest seeds when the seed pods have dried on the plant (flowers, beans, broccoli, lettuce). Keep an eye on seed pods as they start to brown as they will disperse on their own. Catching seed may be accomplished by placing small bags over the seed heads when they look ready to pop or pull the plant just before completely dry and store upside down in a paper bag.
When the vegetable is fully ripe (tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant) they will be well past their edible stage when the seeds are ready. Scoop out and dry the seeds. Store the seeds only when they are completely dry, or they will rot or mold in storage. Remove the chaff and store in a paper envelope labeled with the variety and year. Place the envelopes into an air tight container, such as a canning jar and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Stored seed is best used the following year.
As vegetables mature and flowers begin to wither, consider collecting seeds for planting next year. Knowing what to save and how to save it can be an easy and enjoyable activity. Saving seeds gives the satisfaction of knowing what will be harvested in the future plus continuing a lineage of special plants adapted to your garden. Help and specific instructions may be found at http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/pubs.html . Refer to Fact sheet #7.602, Saving seed; Fact Sheet #7.409, Growing Plants From Seed; PlantTalk #2020, Seed Storage; Fact Sheet #7.222, Storing of Vegetable and Flower Seeds.
Q & A Article
- I have seen a lot of chewed leaves on my perennials this summer. What is causing this?
- There are a number of insects that bite small, circular holes in leaves, and their populations seem to be high this year. Determine the cause of the damage by looking for one of these little buggers on the plant. If you don’t see any insects, then start looking for clues—are several types of plants affected, or does it appear to be on only one plant? Is there any webbing on the damaged plants? Gather as much information as you can, then go to the Colorado Master Gardener website www.cmg.colostate.edu, and look through the online publications about garden insects.
One insect that I notice chomping on the foliage this time of year is the grasshopper. Adult grasshoppers migrate into gardens and leave irregularly spaced holes and chewed twigs scattered among a large range of plant species. There are over 100 species of grasshoppers in Colorado. Some eat only grasses, while others prefer broad-leaved plants. Grasshoppers lay beds of eggs in dry, undisturbed soils such as pasturelands, empty lots, roadsides and natural prairies. When the native flora begins to dry in early summer, the young grasshoppers will move into more tempting areas, such as your flower or vegetable garden.
It’s hard to control grasshoppers because they’re so mobile. Fortunately, they’re on the dinner plate of many other insects, birds such as turkeys, hawks, guinea hens, and horned larks, and even coyotes. Semaspore and NoLo bait are natural controls that are selective to grasshoppers, and won’t harm other, beneficial insects. These baits consist of a protozoa called Nosema locustae, which causes an infection in many types of grasshoppers. It must be applied early in the season, near grasshopper breeding sites. There are also several insecticides that will control grasshoppers, such as carbaryl, acephate and permethrin.
However, before you apply an insecticide, consider the severity of the damage. Serious grasshopper outbreaks occur every 10 to 15 years, and last two to three years. Crops can be destroyed in a matter of hours during these infestations. But a few eaten leaves here and there are not fatal to plants, especially this late in the season. In cases where there are one to seven grasshoppers per square yard on a property, insecticides are not recommended. Just cut off the affected leaves, squash any grasshoppers that you find and let nature take care of the rest.
For more information about grasshoppers and other garden pests, visit www.cmg.colostate.edu and read the following documents:
Fact sheet #5.515, Slugs
Fact sheet #5.536, Grasshopper Control in Gardens & Small Acreages
Fact sheet #5.535, Grasshoppers in Field Crops
Fact sheet #5.576, Leafcutter Bees
By: Rebekah Wilson
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County
Cool weather is fast approaching, and fall preparation can protect your plants and prepare your garden for a healthy spring crop. Here are some basic tips:
Clean up! Clear blackened stems of annual foliage to decrease the possibility of harboring pathogens and insect eggs throughout the winter. Take a good look at your perennial beds – if your perennials are outgrowing their designated areas, it may be time to divide the plants in spring and keep the additional plants or give them to neighbors. Harvest seeds on herbs or other annuals/perennials and store them in cool, dry places until they can be planted in the spring.
Prepare a Spring Palette! Plant a variety of bulbs in the fall and look forward to a colorful spring surprise. Bulbs may be planted as soon as the ground is cool – generally, when evening temperatures average between 40 and 50 degrees. Plant bulbs in clusters (usually in odd numbers) to increase interest. Maximize the spring blooming period by selecting a variety of bulbs that flower in the early, mid, and late spring.
Protect Your Assets! Mulch around your plants and trees to decrease evaporation of moisture, control weeds, and protect your plantings. As mulch breaks down, it also adds healthy organic matter to the soil and helps break apart thick clay soil.
Go Shopping! As stores deplete their gardening stock for the year, take advantage of sales. Stock up on winter gardening supplies. Purchase enough garden hoses and sprinklers to adequately use outside faucets for watering – the last thing you want to do is haul equipment from one faucet to another in the cold!
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and are Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Larimer County is a county-based outreach of Colorado State University Extension providing information you can trust to deal with current issues in agriculture, horticulture, nutrition and food safety, 4-H, small acreage, money management and parenting. For more information about CSU Extension in Larimer County, call (970) 498-6000 or visit www.larimer.org/ext 
Looking for additional gardening information? Check out the CSU Extension Horticulture Agent blog at www.csuhort.blogspot.com  for timely updates about gardening around the state.
Visit PlantTalk Colorado ™ for fast answers to your gardening questions! www.planttalk.org  PlantTalk is a cooperation between Colorado State University Extension, GreenCo and Denver Botanic Gardens.