What saves you money, teaches you about life, and allows you to spread the wealth?
Seed saving, of course.
As you may know by now, I'm on a mission to make gardening an ordinary part of everyday life. In order to make that happen, gardeners of all levels, even those who think they have black thumbs, need to be able to find easy success in the garden. Herbs make great intro-to-gardening plants, and few herbs are easier to start from seed and grow than calendula. Here are four reasons to grow calendula in your kitchen garden.
Once calendula plants have completed their life cycle, it's super simple to harvest and save the seeds for next year. In fact, calendula is one of the easiest plants to save seeds from. It's important for gardeners to experience the magic that is seed saving for three reasons:
First, you'll witness the full cycle of the plant. You start at the very beginning with this year's plant and then watch it fruit and produce its final product, which is the plant's attempt to create hundreds, if not thousands, of exact replicas of itself for next year.
Second, you get to save money. Just one plant, as I said, will produce enough seeds to keep you supplied for years, and third, because you'll have way more seeds than you could ever need (unless, you know, you're getting 50 times your current gardening space next year), you get to share the magic with others. You can wrap your extra seeds in little packets and give great gifts to friends and family and neighbors who want to try growing their own plants.
how to harvest calendula seeds
In the picture above, you can see calendula flowers in different stages of growth. There are some flowers in full bloom, reveling in all their floral glory, and these will be the pollen centers for the plant. For other flowers, their petals have already dried and become papery. Those dried petals will soon fall to the ground.
Eventually, the flower will completely dry out and turn brown, like the one you see in the picture below. At this stage, the seeds are ready to be collected. To protect the seeds, pieces of the stem curl up around them, but all you need to do to release the seeds is turn the dried flower upside down and ruffle the dried stem with your fingers.
Calendula seeds are shaped like little squids. The more you garden, the more you'll notice that larger seeds are easier to collect, save, and sow. Think of bean seeds or nasturtium seeds that you can easily hold between two fingers, separate from others in the palm of your hand, and plant to the right depth.
Pull the seeds apart to see how many you've collected. Each bloom will likely yield six to ten seeds.
how to save calendula seeds
Now that you've harvested the seeds, you have two options for what to do with them. You can either sprinkle them in your garden like confetti and lightly cover them with soil to let the garden "save" your seeds for next year, or you can store your seeds inside.
If you're bringing your seeds inside, pour them into a seed container or envelope labeled with the plant type and date of collection.
Store in a cool, dry place for next season.
Even if you don't go through these simple steps to save your seeds, you'll probably still end up with more calendula plants next year, you just won't have any control over where they come up in your garden.
Calendula is a powerful self-seeder in the garden, which means it will drop seeds that grow on their own if you don't collect all of the dead flowers. A lot of gardeners end up with calendula growing along their pathways or right next to their flower beds where seeds have fallen and nestled over the winter. As soon as the temperature is optimal again, those seeds will germinate and start new life cycles. We call these volunteer calendula plants.
Like I said, saving calendula seeds is super easy. No gardening skills required. Keeping the plants alive? Also easy. I do very little to care for my calendula plants. If you're still not convinced to plant calendula in your garden, here's how this helpful little herb acts as a trap crop to protect your other kitchen garden plants from pests.
So save those seeds and gift them to other gardeners and even gardener-hopefuls in your life to spread the magic of the kitchen garden. Here's to making the most out of your gardening time and space! Thanks for bringing back the kitchen garden with me one seed at a time.
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