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Clone Your Prize Marigolds

Let’s work through a scenario: we’re talking garden here. Your Sungold tomato plant was outstanding this year – a cupful of juicy golden fruit every single day for weeks on end. You want another just like it next year but you can’t remember where you bought the seedling. Melissa Henrey, an ecological horticulturist based in Cos Cob, has just the solution for you. Save some seeds from your fantastic producer and you can grow as many Sungolds as you want in 2011 – hey, you could even start a Sungold tomato plant business!

Melissa recently spoke to the gardeners at the community gardens at Fodor Farms in Norwalk, providing a slew of useful tips for collecting and storing seeds. She urged gardeners to make sure seeds were properly mature before harvesting or they will not be viable next year.  “Never save seeds from a plant that has any disease.” she advised. “Seeds should be separated from the chaff and pieces of their pod coverings. The best way to do this is to take one seed pod at a time and shake out the seeds into a plastic bag,” she went on. Large seeds, such as dried beans, can be flailed by walking over the bean pods to crush them and free the seeds. Make sure your seeds are totally dry before storing them or they might rot.

Proper storage is essential. “Seeds need cool, dark and dry conditions,” Melissa said. Place your seeds in small paper envelopes, and label each one with all the information about the plant – its name and variety, date collected and by whom. The envelopes – you could call them your ‘seed packets’ – now go into air-tight glass jars or plastic containers. The best storage temperature is below 50°F, and the place should be dark and dry. Seeds can last for quite a long time when properly stored. If you store your seeds in the freezer, they can last 10 years or more, and freezing has the added advantage of killing any insects that could be lurking among your new harvest.

Melissa trained at the New York Botanical Garden and at Wave Hill, in the Bronx. In addition her educational programs, she designs, installs and maintains gardens and provides consultation services.

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