By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
With their bright green leaves and vividly colored blooms, nasturtiums are one of the cheeriest flowers in the garden. They’re also one of the easiest to grow. Collecting nasturtium seeds is just as simple, even for the youngest gardeners. Read on and learn how to gather nasturtium seeds for planting later.
Collect plump nasturtium seeds when the plant is winding down in late summer or early fall, before the rainy season or first frost. Don’t gather nasturtium seeds too early because immature seeds aren’t as likely to germinate. Ideally, the seeds will dry and fall off the vine, but you may want to harvest them before they drop.
Move the leaves aside to find the seeds in the centers of the flowers. The wrinkled seeds, about the size of a large pea, will usually be in groups of three. You may also find them in groups of two or four.
Ripe seeds will be tan, which means they are ready to harvest. If the seeds have dropped from the plant, nasturtium seed harvest is just a matter of picking them off the ground. Otherwise, they’ll be easily picked from the plant. You can harvest green nasturtium seeds as long as they’re plump and easily picked off the vine. If they don’t come loose easily give them a few more days to ripen then try again.
Nasturtium seed saving is almost as easy as collecting the seeds. Just spread the seeds on a paper plate or paper towel and leave them until they’re completely brown and dry. Ripe seeds will dry within a few days, but green nasturtium seeds will take much longer. Don’t rush the process. Seeds won’t keep if they aren’t completely dry.
Once the seeds have tried, store them in a paper envelope or glass jar. Don’t store the seeds in plastic, as they may mold without adequate air circulation. Store the dry nasturtium seeds in a cool, dry location. Don’t forget to label the container.
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Read more about Nasturtiums
Aside from the politics, capitalism and biotechnology arguments that are making the news, the bottom line reason for saving seeds is because you have a plant you love and want to grow again. It could be the perfect blue campanula, the best tasting tomato or a champion pumpkin. You never know when a seed company will discontinue your favorite seed to make way for new varieties. Saving your own seed is the only guarantee.
Open Pollinated or heirloom, self-pollinated plants are the only varieties that will grow true from seed, meaning the seedlings will be exactly like the parents. These are the seeds worth saving.
Seeds that have been hybridized will grow into a variety of plants with some characteristics of either or both parents. Many, if not most, of the plants being sold now, are hybrids. Hybridizing can create a plant with desirable traits and affords some job security for the seed company. Seed saving is not really an option with hybrids unless you are looking to discover something new. You could, however, try taking cuttings.
Additionally, plants that are pollinated by insects or the wind may have cross-pollinated with plants from another variety and again, will not grow true. To save seeds from these plants requires a bit of extra care, as explained below.
All that said, there are still many plants that will grow true from seed and saving and sharing these seeds has given birth to the seed savers phenomenon. Self-pollinated plants are the easiest to save and include: Beans, Chicory, Endive, Lettuce, Peas, Tomatoes. You can also save many heirloom flower seeds such as cleome, foxgloves, hollyhock, nasturtium, sweet pea, and zinnia.The Spruce / K. Dave
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Each spring I always buy a couple of packets of different varieties of nasturtium seeds and plant them in containers around the chicken coop and yard, then eagerly await the flat, round, mottled foliage and vibrant blooms in beautiful shades of red, salmon, yellow orange.
With dozens of varieties, there are more than enough to choose from to create a beautiful kaleidoscope of color with these fast-growing plants!
Like many edible flowers and herbs, nasturtium are not only super beneficial for chickens in helping to prevent internal parasites, the leaves and flowers are also edible for humans and add a peppery bite to salads or sandwiches or a bright flowery garnish for cocktails or desserts.
Nasturtium are jam-packed with beta carotene, vitamin C, iron and manganese, so I plant nasturtium all around the chicken coop and yard each spring.
My chickens love munching on the leaves and flowers all summer long! Which is a good thing because nasturtium is also though to work as a laying stimulant, antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibiotic, insecticide and to support respiratory health.
But it wasn't until this year that I realized just how easy it is to collect and save the seeds from my nasturtium plants to replant the following spring.
For the first time, I planted some nasturtium last spring in a planter on the back deck, instead of in wooden barrels around the chicken coop and yard.
Imagine my surprise to see light tan balls littering the deck that looked just like chick peas! I had never noticed them laying in the grass around the planters before. But then to find out that those are the nasturtium seeds.
Nasturtium seeds grow on the stems/vines, not in the flower itself. They are initially green, but then after the frost hits the flowers and vines, the seeds will turn light tan and fall off the vine to the ground.
At this point they can be collected and air dried in a cool, dry spot, then stored until the following spring in an envelope or small paper bag.
If the seeds are left on the ground in the dirt, there's a chance they will reseed the following spring, but they need darkness to germinate, so saving the seeds and replanting them is a more sure bet.
Nasturtium are super easy to grow, and since they trail, they work well in containers, hanging baskets, window boxes or as ground cover.
They will also climb up a trellis or fence if you train them. I plant them in barrels along my chicken run so the vines can climb up the run fencing and the chickens can nibble any leaves or flowers that grow on their side of the fencing.
Seeds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date for your area, or planted directly in the ground after the danger of frost has passed.
Nasturtium aren't cold-hardy at all, and always one of the first flowers I lose each fall, so be sure to wait far enough into the spring to be sure you won't be getting temps below freezing any longer before you plant the seeds. Freezing temperatures make nasturtium sad.
Since they don't transplant terribly well, I prefer to plant the nasturtium seeds right in the pots (or the ground) in late spring.
Nicking the skin of the seeds with a knife or soaking them in warm water overnight can help to speed up germination.
Nasturtium do best in full to part sun. Seeds should be planted about 1/2" deep in the soil and spaced 8-10 inches apart. Seedlings should emerge within 10-12 days of planting.
Nasturtium actually thrive on a bit of neglect (my kind of plant!). They don't need to be fertilized and actually poorer soil will result in more blossoms.
They do need to be watered if you don't get much rain, but they prefer the soil to dry out completely between waterings and do tend to like dry conditions in general.
Nasturtium will bloom all summer long. Deadheading (removing dead blossoms) throughout the season will result in more flowers. The plants are not cold-hardy and will die with the first frost.
At that point, the foliage should be left until the all the seeds have fallen and been collected. Then the dead foliage can be pulled out.
As an aside, I''m told that the green seeds (before they dry out) can be pickled and eaten like capers, but I haven't tried that yet. I'm happy to plant thm next spring and not have to buy new seeds!
Leaves are peppery and add zing to your salads and summer dishes. Pick the leaves when they are tender and small. If they get too big, they become tough. Experiment with your particular variety.
Pick the leaves early in the morning when they are plump with water.
Pick the flowers to add the peppery hit and a bit of color to your salads. Nasturtium flowers can grow quite large and really stand out in your dishes. I make the salad and then add the flowers to the top, so they don’t get lost in the bowl.
At certain times of the season, the flowers can start out in your mouth with a sweet burst like honey, before being followed up with a hot, peppery hit.
One of my favorite things to do with the seeds is to make “Poor Mans Capers.” These are yummy, like a caper mixed with pickled onion and nasturtium. Pick the seeds soon after the blossoms fall. If they get too big or start going a brownish color from a bright green, it’s probably too late.
Nasturtiums are easy to grow and fast. Get your children involved too because the seeds are big enough for little hands and they will see the results quickly.
Try this wonderful plant as something different to add to your food. It’s one of few edibles you can plant anywhere and do little in the way of maintenance. Try a small, compact variety first and branch out from there.
Do you have any favorite ways to use the nasturtiums in your garden? I’d love to hear your ideas!