Growing plants from seed is not only fun but also a fabulous way to grow some hard-to-find specimens, and it’s easier than you might think. The other day I was eating a squash and decided to reserve the seeds to sow later. For fruits and vegetables like my squash, which are considered tropical, it’s best to dry the seeds. To do this, clean them as best you can and place them in a plastic bag in a warm place – the top of a radiant heat source will do. The heat helps to separate the seeds from the pulp so they can be fully dried for planting in the spring. Once fully dried, store them in a paper or ziploc bag and place them in a cool, dry place. Don’t forget to label the bag so you know what you are planting next year.
For cold hardy plants the process is different. The first step is to collect the seed. From there you need to mimic Mother Nature. Once you have harvested and sorted the seed, it’s important to provide cold stratification similar to what a winter season would do. Some people use plastic jugs for this purpose to create a greenhouse effect for seeds. I prefer to put seeds in a Ziploc bag with moist potting soil and place them in the refrigerator crisper drawer (I have a spare one in the basement). At the end of winter these seeds will be ready to sow in individual or large trays.
There is nothing more exciting than seeing a plant grow from seed. Another benefit of growing plants from seed is that you may end up growing something unique, unlike its parents. The process of growing something from seeds reminds me of the days when we developed film. Unlike digital photography where you see the image you took instantaneously, we waited with anticipation to see what our photos would look like when we opened the envelope and studied our photographic prints. Maybe plants you grow from seed will have a different habit or even some special variegation. I know several people who have patented special seedlings because they were so unique.
Have a little fun this fall and try your hand at growing plants from seed. Consider joining an organization like the Hardy Plant Society Mid Atlantic Group (HPS) which offers seeds through an exchange program and has many knowledgeable members who are happy to help you get started. Last year HPS received 916 seed donations contributed by 51 gardeners, and included approximately 90 new seed varieties never before offered.
Most of all, have a good time growing something this season. I’m confident you will find it satisfying and therapeutic!