We are officially in season of autumn here in New England. We had one last shot of hot weather last week and now we have the windows closed, the blankets out, and the banana bread in the oven!
It is the season of the snuggle and it’s my favorite time of year. My knitting needles are out and my patchwork blankets are coming out for assembly! This is when I switch from outdoor chores to my indoor crafts.
As the temperatures start to drop, the flowers are starting to drop off and with the first big freeze, they’ll all be done for the season. As flowers start to wilt and die off we can take time to go out and dead head them so you can harvest the seeds.
Some folks leave their flowers out and let the birds have at them but this season I have had an abundance of cosmos and marigolds so I have decided to do some seed saving.
First things first! Snip off the head of the wilted flowers and collect them. It’s best to wait until the flowers are dead and drying up a bit but you can cut them off as they are starting to turn and dry them later.
Harvesting marigolds is fun! Instead of snipping off the flower head, hold the top of the plant and pop off the flower head from the stem. You can see in the photos below how the seed head stays intact and all in one piece. Gather them all in a basket and use them to get crafty or find a place to dry them so you can harvest the seeds.
Crafts with Dried Marigolds
Harvesting marigolds has two great uses if you feel like getting crafty before harvesting your seeds! You can harvest the flower heads and make a garland for the fall season. The Mexican tradition of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) uses Mexican cempasúchil (marigold) as the traditional flower as part of their rituals for honoring the dead.
“During Día de Muertos, the tradition is to build private altars (“ofrendas”) containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the words of the living directed to them. These altars are often placed at home or in public spaces such as schools and libraries, but it is also common for people to go to cemeteries to place these altars next to the tombs of the departed.” – Wikipedia
The way that the seed heads stay intact on marigolds makes it very easy to thread them onto a string. You can string the flower head onto the string fresh and display it. They can hang until they dry and once they are you can pull the seeds out to harvest.
Marigold Seed Saving
Pulling the seeds out of the flower head for marigolds is easy and very gratifying. I love how fragrant the whole process is!
Once the seed is pulled out, separate them out of the bundle and leave them out on a plate/tray in a cool dry place to dry out. I use my little Ikea greenhouse to help dry them out.
Once they are completely dried out you can store them in a paper envelope and use them for planting in the spring. And be sure to label the envelope so you don’t forget what’s in it!
It’s fun to experiment with different plants and flowers around your yard. Cosmos, zinnias, and marigolds were my choices for seed stashing on this particular day. You can learn a lot just by experimenting and pulling apart a flower or two!
Saving Sunflower Seeds
Sunflowers are great for kids to harvest. My daughter spent hours last summer sitting with spent sunflower heads and pulling apart the flowers and the seeds from the centers.
It’s such a great tactile activity! It kept her entertained, she interacted with nature, enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine, and learned where the seeds are in sunflowers!