Cheap Thrills: Learning to Save Seeds

By Marsha Goldberg, Fairfax Master Gardener Intern
My garden is awash with color this year. Zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos and coreopsis–all charming on their own–are attracting crowds of butterflies, goldfinches and hummingbirds. It is my most beautiful and productive garden yet, but it is especially satisfying because most of the flowers and vegetables grew from seeds that I saved from last year’s garden.

Saving seeds is a satisfying hobby that not only makes me feel like an accomplished gardener, but a budget-savvy one, too, because I don’t have to buy seeds year after year. The colorful flowers that spring from the seeds I saved are not only beautiful, they attract pollinators who work on increasing my yield of vegetables (which, by the way, I also grow from saved seeds).

zinnia seeds

Black arrowhead-shaped seeds of a zinnia. The dried out orange petals are still attached.

Saving seeds is easy. The simplest seeds to save are those from annual flowers and wildflowers such as alyssum, calendula, California poppy, coreopsis (tickseed), cosmos, lupines, marigold, sunflower, sweet pea and zinnia. In fact, many of these seeds are so easy that they will often self-seed themselves in the garden and grow back the next year.

To harvest seeds, wait for the flower to dry. The arrowhead-shaped seeds of zinnias are at the base of the petals, as are the seeds of marig