Garden seeds usually come dried and dormant in a packet, waiting for a bit of damp soil to wake them up. But some seeds can be planted fresh from a fruit or flower. In fact, some seeds are more likely to germinate when they are planted soon after harvesting. With a bit of preparation and knowledge about a seed's germination requirements, you can successfully sprout a plant with fresh seed from your garden or even your produce drawer.
Select Fresh Seeds for Planting
The seeds of many fruits are good candidates for planting fresh. This makes sense when you think about how these plants reproduce in nature. Fruits from trees, tomatoes, peppers, squashes, and melons drop to the ground, eventually sending up dozens of sprouts. However, keep in mind that the resulting plant can look different from its parent.
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Fruit trees, for example, are often hybrids that do not grow true from seed, and many plants can cross-breed with other varieties in your neighborhood. Also, fruits and vegetables from the market can be sterile. If you do want to try the seeds from store-bought produce, you might have more success with organic produce that hasn't been treated with chemicals designed to prevent sprouting.
Some flowers can be planted from fresh seed and sprout immediately, but others have special germination requirements. If you notice seedlings popping up around a flower right after it has gone to seed, that is a good sign that you can collect the seed and plant it. Some annuals fall into this category as long as temperatures remain high enough for the seeds to germinate. Many flower seeds, however, need to overwinter in the soil or undergo cold treatment before they will germinate.
Apples, pears, peaches, and cherries also require a chilling period. Make sure to check the germination requirements of the plant you would like to grow and what time of year is best for planting your seeds.
Prepare Fresh Seeds for Planting
In nature, fruits drop to the ground and seeds grow from the compost created by the rotting fruit. You can use the same approach with fruits like squash or tomatoes, but the seeds might be lost to hungry animals, mold, and rot. You can give your seeds a better chance by preparing them for planting first.
Seeds must be collected from a mature plant before they will grow. That means you might have to allow fruits to ripen or dry beyond the stage when you would normally harvest. Cucumbers, for instance, are normally picked green for eating. Allow them to develop further on the plant, turning yellow before you pick them. Greens like lettuce, kale, and mustard need time to bolt, flower, and produce seed.
For fruits, begin by separating the seeds. Pulpy fruits like tomatoes can be scooped out and soaked in water, gently separating the seeds with your fingers. The seeds from some plants like peppers can be sown immediately, but others will be more disease-resistant if they have time for the protective seed coat to harden. Place your seeds on a paper plate to dry in a warm, dark spot for a couple of days. Then plant your seeds at the soil depth and temperature recommended for the species and water well.
For flowers and seed pods, put the dried flower heads or seed pods into a paper bag and fold the top down. Shake the bag vigorously to separate the seeds. Pull out any plant debris and then spread the seeds onto a tray in a single layer to dry for two to three weeks. Some flower seeds benefit from a soak to rehydrate or from a chilling period before planting. Do some research and sow the seeds according to instructions for the plant. With attention and care, you can successfully grow plants from your very own seeds.