Seed Saving Program in Bloomington on September 28

Have you ever had a plant in your garden that you really liked and wanted to be able to grow it again next year? If you answered yes, then this is the workshop presented by Master Gardener Jaci Dixon is a must attend for you states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardeners will be hosting a workshop entitled "Seed Saving" on September 28th at 6:30 pm. At the McLean County Extension office join Jaci Dixon, McLean County Master Gardener, for a step-by-step discussion and demonstration on harvesting and preserving seeds.

Dixon will explain why we harvest seeds, what to know before you harvest, the different types of seeds and plants, and how to collect, clean and store seeds. The presentation will include samples of different kinds of dried flower heads and seeds and a demonstration on cleaning seeds. Participants will also learn about the free Seed Library available to the public at the Bloomington Public Library, and how they can help the seed library growing by saving and donating seeds. Jaci will also share some tips on propagating plants by cuttings.

McLean County Master Gardeners, like Dixon, will collect seed from California poppies, impatiens, larkspur, annual phlox, gaillardia, musk mallow, aster, bleeding heart and bachelor's buttons from Sarah's historical Garden at the David Davis Mansion Historic Sight in Bloomington states Kelly.

Without collecting seed each year the Master Gardeners would be unable to maintain 141 year old garden to its historic status. Letter entries led Master Gardeners and mansion staff to know the kinds of plants grown in Sarah's garden and entries revealed Sarah saved and started seed. Seed saved from Sarah's garden is not only planted the next year or saved for three years in special vaults (aka McLean County Master Gardener's refrigerators) but are also sold in the mansion's gift shop.

Kelly says you don't have to be a master to collect and save seed from the garden but only need to follow a few simple steps in order to harvest and save seed from some of your favorite bloomers. When saving flower and garden seed from this season, you are selecting for the plants that do the best in your own backyard. These particular plants may be vigorous in your soil, have a larger blossom, bolder color, greater yield and improved flavor. For future seed saving endeavors, here are a few tips from Extension

  1. Timing-Seed must be well ripened to have enough energy to germinate. Seed should be collected from only the healthiest and most vigorous of plants on days with low humidity.
  2. Process- If collecting from vegetables, harvest before fruit gets overripe and remove seed from pulp. Large seeds like squash, melon and cucumber should be washed and laid out to dry without allowing for reabsorption. Seeds of dill, sunflower, celosia, and calendula can be sifted through screen to remove chaff. Watch out for drying time on plants like fox glove and larkspur that will drop seed from lower flowers while the ones above will be in flower. Capsule seed pods like love in a mist, poppy and rose moss can be shaken out through the opening on the top. Entire flower heads of marigolds and cosmos can be removed once and placed in a paper bag.
  3. Process for Tomato- Tomato seeds must be fermented in the pulp for four days to prevent disease and break dormancy. Select the seeds that sink to the bottom.
  4. Seed Storage-Store your seeds dry and cool. Seeds must be dried well before placed in sealed containers. Some advanced seed savers store seed envelopes in jars of silica sand (drying agent) in the refrigerator.
  5. Labels- Always label seed with the plant name and date the seed was collected.
  6. Seed germination test-Place seeds in wet paper towel to test for germination viability and rate before planting.

For more information, please join the McLean County Master Gardeners on September 28 at 6:30 p.m. At the McLean County Extension office located on 1615 Commerce Parkway in Bloomington for an evening filled with free seeds and knowledge. Please register at