Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seed Collection

Despite the wind being a little bit gusty, I went ahead and collected some seed. Everything I collected was from the prairie garden in my front yard. The seed used to start the garden was all from Blue Jay Barrens, so the plants carry the same genetic material as those out in the prairies. My prairie garden grass of choice is Side Oats Gramma because of its mature height of five feet or less and its attractive florets.

My harvesting equipment is hand operated. I adjust the harvester so the pinky finger closes around five or six grass stems and the rest of the fingers form a cup. A quick upward pass along the stem results in a hand full of grass seed.

Collected seed is dropped into a bucket. This is a quick operation and it doesn’t take long to get a large mass of fluffy seeds. If you are collecting on a windy day, you may witness an interesting demonstration of air pressure. When my kids were in elementary school, I used to go into their classes to do science lessons. The kids always loved doing air pressure demonstrations, but it took a long time to convince them that the pressure of moving air is less than that of air at rest. Air moving rapidly over the top of your collecting bucket can cause a low pressure area that allows still air in the bucket to push your light mass of seeds up and out. If conditions are just right, a bucket can be emptied of seed in less than a second, much to the surprise and consternation of the collector.

Collected seed is deposited in paper lunch sacks. Spiders and insects are plentiful on seed heads, so I always let the sacks sit open for a while to allow all of the fauna escape.

Baptisia seed pods. As the pods dry, the seeds come loose inside and rattle around.

Baptisia are legumes and have a typical clover type seed.

For plants with brittle pods, I collect the entire pod. Later I’ll crush the pods and sift out the seed.

Purple Coneflower seed head. The finches have been after these seeds for quite a while. Birds don’t wait for seed to mature, but they always seem to miss a few. I usually clip the stalks and hit the seed heads on the inside of the bucket to get the seeds out. This spines are sharp and when they jab you, they’ll most likely leave a little barb embedded beneath the skin.

The birds only left seven seeds in this seed head. There are still a lot of seed heads left and I should find plenty of seeds to fill my needs.

When I only have a few seeds, I’ll put them into a self sealing envelope. Regardless of where the seed is put, I always mark type of seed, date collected and location. This Handsome Trig was auditioning for the Blue Jay Barrens mascot. It was quite let down when I suggested that the mascot should be a Blue Jay.

Western Sunflower. Once again the birds have been foraging here.

Only two Western Sunflower seeds. Although tiny, the seeds live up to their sunflower name.

False Aloe pods and seeds. Most of the collected seed will be planted in my prairie garden expansion area within the next month. I have the best luck with germination when I plant the seed at the same time it is naturally falling to the ground. The rest of the seed will go into pots or flats and the resulting plants will be set out as seedlings next year.

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