Gardentalk – Collecting and planting your own flower and vegetable seeds

A kaleidoscope of Alaskan wildflowers in a meadow off Sawmill Creek, near Berners Bay. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

If you’ve ever coveted your neighbor’s prize cucumbers or wanted to duplicate an Alaskan wildflower meadow in your backyard, there’s a way you can do that. Just collect the seeds and plant them yourself.

Master Gardener Ed Buyarski says he collects seeds from kale, radish, parsnips and spinach in his garden. He’s also tried growing shooting stars, wild columbine and chocolate lily flowers from collected seeds. But timing is key.

“Those can all be collected once the seed pods, the stems finish blooming, turn brown — and then some of those seed pods will start to open up,” Buyarski says. “If you wait too long, they will seed themselves out across your garden. Kind of like in my garden, I’ve got kale growing everywhere where it has gone to flower over many years.”

Shooting star flower
Purple or mountain shooting star near Juneau. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Buyarski says he’s now growing primrose seedlings from seeds that he collected in April from the plant’s tall stem.

Lupines and geraniums have seed pods that explode to spread their seeds out further away from the plant. Buyarski recommends picking the pods before they burst, while they’re still a little bit green. Put them into a cardboard box and store them in a dry place, like a garage.

Seeds can be dried over the winter or planted immediately. In the latter case, they will become dormant with this winter’s cold weather before naturally sprouting in the spring.

Kale, columbine and mustard seed pods selected by Ed Buyarski from KTOO’s Agricultural Test Station and Garden of Science. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)