Friday, June 29, 2012

Curious About Harvesting Seeds from the Yard

When I bought this house there was absolutely nothing green in the yards.  It was all dark brown and grim.  Since I moved in in April, the yard has grown into a jungle.  The prior owner did not have a lawn in the front but grew flowers, vegetables and fruit trees.
Jungle, east of driveway
Jungle, west of driveway

One of the plants that came up from seed is mustard. There were also many varieties of lettuce which have kept me in daily salads for about two months now.
My first lettuce plant of Spring, now flowering
The idea of harvesting seeds intrigues me for several reasons.  At first I thought of the economics of it, though seeds do not cost that much.  But a lot of little things that “don’t cost that much” add up to a lot of dollars, so why not economize where possible?

As I’ve learned more about horticulture, I see that not every seed and plant will work in every soil, microclimate and shade-to-sun ratio.  What I know is that the vegetables that are growing here now grew from seed that was dispersed by natural factors.  The prior owner already knew they were leaving last fall and summer and would not have intentionally planted seeds.  This means that 1) seeds from these varieties are seeds that will grow new plants, and 2) that these seeds like it here.  I’ve heard sometimes seeds from the hybrid plants and seeds sold widely are difficult to propagate.

When to harvest seeds is a question I am totally clueless about.  Do you harvest flowers?  I almost harvested flowers of my mustard plant, but my mom said to wait longer.  Now, my mustard plant has these pods on it.

Current mustard plant, most of the greens have been eaten, by me
Pods and dead flowers on mustard plant
So is it time to harvest these seeds yet?  Apparently not.  They are supposed to look as dead as a doornail, "deader", if possible.

This nifty video from an organization called Seed Ambassadors demonstrates when to harvest the seeds and how to separate the seeds from the chaff.

Here is a screen shot of how dead they are supposed to look:

It looks like I have a few more weeks to go.  If I can, I would like to harvest these for a fall crop of mustard greens which I love to cook, and also throw a few leaves into a salad mix for extra spiciness.