Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
When I was in elementary school, I remember someone giving me a bunch of seed packets. I found a spot in the yard to plant the seeds, then eagerly waited to see what would pop up first. Zinnias and marigolds were my favorites as they were quick to sprout and had pretty flowers. I was making mud pies one day and was adding dried flowers to my “pies” when I had an A-HA moment. When I broke up the dried flowers there were things attached to the base of the dried petals, which looked exactly like the seeds in the seed packets! I planted those newly discovered seeds and was thrilled when it started to sprout. From that moment, I was hooked on plants. To this day, I’m constantly picking off the dried flowers of my zinnias and marigolds and scattering the seeds in empty spots in my yard.
Cosmos and sunflowers are a couple recent flower additions to my garden. These plants, like zinnia and marigold, produce seeds located at the base of the dried flowers. Other plants like tomatoes, beans, citrus, and avocado form seeds inside of a fruit. Tomatoes, beans and some citrus grow true to seed, meaning the plant will produce fruit that look and taste similar to the mother plant. On the other hand, avocados grown from seed will not produce fruit that look or taste like the ones from the mother plant.
If you are interested in collecting your own seeds to grow, you will need to wait until the seeds are mature. The fruits can come in a variety of forms – dried up flowers, fleshy berries, dry papery capsules, pod, etc. Seeds generally have a higher germination rate if planted fresh, but if done correctly, some seeds can be stored in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator for years and still be viable. If you plan to store the seeds, it’s best to remove as much of the debris as possible and let the seeds dry out before storing it in a paper bag, envelope, or jar with desiccant.
When you are planting your seeds, you can start them in a pot or directly in the ground. The same rules apply: Plant the seed no deeper than they are wide. For example, lettuce seeds are tiny so they can just be sprinkled over the surface of the soil, compared to an avocado seed that should be buried at least an inch or two below the soil surface. For tiny seeds, it’s best you don’t disturb the soil when watering, so pre-moisten the soil before planting.
Happy seed planting!
The link below is a great local resource for more information about seed saving and propagation: ctahr.hawaii.edu/site/Info.aspx or manoa.hawaii.edu/ctahr/getlocal/projects/seed-saving/.
Amy Tsuneyoshi grew up playing in the mud and still finds joy in getting her hands in the soil. She grows a variety of edible and ornamental plants in her urban jungle as well as Native Hawaiian plants. She has a degree in horticulture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and is currently the President of the Friends of Hālawa Xeriscape Garden.