- UC Marin Master Gardener Events & Classes
Garden Help from UC Marin Master Gardeners
- Farmers Markets
- Help Desk
- Chamomile: easy to grow and makes a nice cup of tea
- Ferns: ancient plants
- Harvesting summer crops
- Help cut flowers live longer
- Blueberries: healthy, tasty, and pretty
- Growing and harvesting beets
- Oak trees of Marin
- Hummingbirds, nature’s extremists
- The benefits of houseplants
- What to do with spent bulbs
- Fruit trees: benefits of thinning young fruit
- Microgreens: tiny plants, big flavor
- How to grow delicious beans
- All about citrus
- Ornamental grasses
- Beneficial insects
- Preventing a codling moth invasion
- Stop snails in their tracks
- Winter garden color
- Caring for holiday gift plants
- Propagating native plants
- Japanese maples
- Container gardening
- Growing gorgeous camellias
- Redwood trees
- Pomegranates: an ancient tree
- Bulbs for spring
- Nothing quite like a freshly picked bouquet
- Seeds hold the miracle of life, so save, swap and share them
- Sold on Salvia
- Sudden Oak Death: a million trees gone and counting
- Habitat gardens
- Growing In Your Garden Now - Fava Beans
- Using water effectively in the garden
- Yikes, thrips
- Growing a salad in a pot
- Rain gardens: an attractive solution to a challenging environmental problem
- How to select bare root roses
- Lovely birds... or pests?
- Australian plants in winter
- Get a head start on spring with cold frames
- Snails and slugs: keep them out of the garden
- Sow seeds now for flowers in spring and summer
- Fire-safe landscaping
- Plants made for the shade
- Chinese pistache tree glows in autumn
- Attracting honey and native bees to your garden
- Sow wildflower seeds in fall for spring show
- Native shrubs create a visual anchor in landscapes - fast
- What to plant in the fall-winter veggie garden
- Proper pruning of wisteria for a plethora of blossoms
- Compost for every corner of your spring garden
- All about mushrooms
- Butterflies in the garden
- Growing blueberries
- How to plant a fruit tree
- Protecting plants from frost
- What's that plant?
- Bright spots of color lift the drabness of the winter garden
- Books for Marin gardeners
- Benefits of School Gardens
- Trees: not just nice to look at
- Dealing with mosquitos
- Epilobium – California fuchsia
- Why bees matter, and how you can help
- Picking the Right Plant for the Right Place in Your Garden
- What's That Plant?
- Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh
- Late Summer Color
- Growing Summer Squash
- Short on space? Containers!
- Herbs: tough, attractive, practical
- These plants are true companions
- Companion planting in the vegetable garden
- Get Grounded – Healthy Soil Does Matter
- Mushrooms on the March
- Our Gentle Winters are Good for Vegetables
- Rodents like it Warm
- Know What Makes an Invasive Species Invasive
- California Natives - Plant Like a Native
- Consider a Simple Water-Catchment System and Rain Garden/Bioswale Before Winter Rains Arrive
- Have You Scheduled a FREE Bay-Friendly Garden Walk?
- A Green Autumn
- Rx for Pests: Ants
- Fine Tune Your Garden
- Colorful Drought-Tolerant Plants Thrive in Marin
- Water Restrictions and Recognizing Signs of Water Stress
- UC Researcher Is Helping Plants Survive the Drought
- Summer Is Perfect For Peppers
- Do the Leaves on Your Trees Look Scorched?
- Fine Tune Your Garden
- How to Recognize Drought and Water Stress
- Spring is the Time for Potatoes, Asparagus and Citrus
- Don't Let Stink Bugs... Bug Your Vegetables
- Harvesting Berries
- Water Heroes
- Natural Cold Storage
- Fruit Trees; Why We Treat Them in Dormancy
- Fondness for Old Friends
- What Happens to Garden Bad Guys in Winter?
- Plants that aren't blown away by the wind
- A hill o' beans
- Fruit tree thinning
- Fragrant plants: Add some chocolate or Kool-Aid to your garden
- Top 10 resolutions for Marin gardeners
- Trees with interesting bark shine in winter
- Who says your garden has to be green?
- Plant bulbs now for spring beauty
- Gardener's checklist for fall
- Cover crops boost soil in vegetable beds
- Rx: Living with deer
- Growing berries in Marin
- How to build healthy soil
- Gardener's checklist for summer
- Water-saving tips for the home garden
- Gardener's checklist for spring
- Stop the popping - Controlling hairy bittercress
- How to control aphids
- Brightening up the winter garden
- Selecting a fruit tree
- What to plant and harvest in the winter vegetable garden
- Rain, rain, don't go away
- Gardener's checklist for winter
- Getting rid of rats
- Fall: a time for planning and planting
- Asparagus: spears for years
- Lawn: use it or lose it
- Rx for powdery mildew
- Community Outreach Projects of UC Marin Master Gardeners
- Great Gardening Information
- Selecting Plants
- Marin Master Gardener Independent Journal Articles
- How to Become a Master Gardener
- UC Marin Master Gardeners Opportunity Fund: Providing for the Future
Seeds hold the miracle of life, so save, swap and share them
Seeds can seem so commonplace. They're everywhere. We plant them, eat them and sometimes even make jewelry from them. But how often do we consider their magic? Seeds range in shape and size from smaller than the tiny parachute-like dandelion seed to the weighty bulbous Seychelles nut, the largest seed in the plant kingdom at up to 65 pounds. Big or small, winged or whorled, notched or silky, all seeds contain within them the miracle of life.
Along with produce swaps, many gardeners are rediscovering the ancient practice of saving and sharing seeds. It's not only economical to produce your own seeds for the next season and trade them with other gardeners, but through the selection and breeding process, you can nurture varieties that are well adapted to your particular garden and climate. And you help preserve plant varieties that contain within them our horticultural heritage.
Since agricultural beginnings, farmers and gardeners selected the best seeds and stored them for the coming year. Survival depended on knowledge of pollination, harvesting and storing of seeds. The development of commercial seed companies allowed farmers and gardeners to forgo seed saving and purchase new seed every year.
Industrialized agriculture alters the seed landscape
With modern industrialized agriculture has come the concentration of these seed companies into a few conglomerates. Today ten companies sell 73 percent of all seeds. These companies produce genetically uniform hybrids designed for mass production. As a result, global food production has increased and famines have been averted, but the diversity preserved by ancient seed-saving practices has greatly diminished. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that since 1900, 75 percent of the varieties of agricultural crops have been lost.
The ins and outs of saving and swapping seeds
Getting started saving seeds is easy, especially if you begin with standard or heirloom varieties that are self-pollinators. These are plants that contain both male and female parts and accept their own pollen without help from insects or the wind. You don't need to isolate them from other plants to prevent them from accepting pollen from other varieties. Some common self-pollinators are tomatoes, lettuce, peas, snap beans, soybeans, lima beans, endive and escarole.
Look through your garden to select the healthiest plants and the qualities that you would like to encourage - the tastiest tomatoes, for example, or the earliest or the largest. Tag your selected plants with a stake or cord to make sure you don't mistakenly eat your prize seeds in a dinner salad.
Avoid collecting seeds from hybrid plants. These plants are created by crossing two unrelated parents. Their seeds are sometimes sterile and do not breed true. Select plants that are open-pollinated, the traditional "heirloom" varieties that have been pollinated by natural means.
Allow the seed to mature and dry as long as possible on the plant. When the flowers and pods are faded and dry, it's time to harvest. Spread your collection in a single layer on a screen for up to a week to complete the drying process.
Seeds harvested from a dry plant should be threshed to separate the seed from their cases. You can gently crush your harvest between two pieces of cardboard to separate the seeds, then toss them in the air or pour them from one container to another near a fan to winnow away the chaff. The light casings will blow away leaving you with the seed. You can also use a sieve to separate the two.
The seeds of fleshy fruits, such as cucumber, tomatoes, squash and melons, should be scooped out, washed, and dried. Some gardeners ferment these seeds, especially those of tomatoes, before drying. It's not essential, but it helps sort out the bad seeds and helps kill diseases. If you decide to ferment, add the seeds to a little water in a jar and place in the sun. After a few days, carefully remove any moldy film, add more water and stir. The good seeds will sink to the bottom. Pour off any floating pulp and seeds, then repeat the process until all the pulp is gone. You can now drain and dry the seeds in a single layer on a screen or a paper plate.
Store your dried seeds in an airtight container in a cool place to avoid exposure to moisture and heat. Mark the container with the name of the plant, the date and any notes on color, location or size.
By saving seeds, you can develop plants in your garden while participating in an ancient tradition that preserves genetic and cultural diversity.
Growing concern about this loss has led to a grass-roots movement dedicated to seed saving and swapping. The Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) has created a library of open-pollinated seeds that it makes available free to the public. Here in Marin, you can also visit the Fairfax Community Seed Exchange. Or visit seedsave.org, where you can find (and swap) seeds.
Original article by Marilyn Geary for the Marin IJ
Edited for the Leaflet by Marie Narlock