Saturday, August 30, 2008

Time To Stop Pinching~Herbs of Course~

If you are planning to save seed from your basil plants, then the time is now to stop pinching the tops and allow it to set seed.

The buds that aren't pinched off will develop into spikes of pretty blooms. As the flowers mature, the blooms will drop. The green carpels that remain attached to the bloom stalks contain the developing seeds. These little "pods" dry up and turn brown as the seeds mature. Break one open and you can see the developing round seeds inside. As the seed coat hardens, it changes color from green to brown to black.

Pinching should stop at least 6 weeks before your projected first frost date. Once frost visits a basil plant, it's done. The exact time from bloom to mature seed seems somewhat variable. If I want to be very sure of getting seed from a particular variety, I usually allow the flowering to start in early August. Some varieties will not flower until mid to late September. So you have to know your plants and act accordingly.

When the seeds are ready, you can strip the brown carpels from the bloom stem and crumble them between your fingers to release the seeds. Mature basil seeds are small, round, and black. Separating the seed from the chaff (the dried bits and dust) can be a challenge, but with a little practice you'll find a technique that works for you.

Dry carpels will drop some seeds if you stir them in a bowl or shake them in a bag. To get more seeds, break them up by crushing them or rubbing them between your fingers.

I have a couple of sieves that allows the separation of seed from chaff. A coarse sieve separates the larger bits of chaff from the seeds and dusty stuff. Then, a fine sieve lets the dust fall through while the seeds remain behind. At that point, 90% of the chaff should be gone.

I allow my seeds sit out a week or two, just to make sure they're completely dry before I put them into labeled storage containers, I prefer dark colored jars.

Saving your own seed from your prize plants will always insure that you have good plants for the next year. You can also have fun trading seed with other like minded gardeners.

Feel free to contact me if you have seed or plants to trade.

Happy August Ending~

Bea Kunz

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