Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Saving Seeds: Lettuce and Green Beans

Monday, July 02, 2012

DISCLAIMER:  The information provided here applies to plants that are heirloom, organic or open-pollinated.  Attempting to harvest and re-grow seeds from hybrid plants is not encouraged, as the plants may not perform correctly or the seeds may not even germinate.

As a new gardener, one of the things I really enjoy is sitting down with a stack of seed catalogs and figuring out what I'm going to grow next year and how to arrange things in the raised beds.  But seeds and seedlings can quickly become expensive.  And why pay for something that you can easily get for free from your current plants?  Lightbulb!  Why not save the seeds?!

Harvesting Lettuce Seeds

We eat a ton of lettuce and have enjoyed growing some buttercrunch lettuce this year for the first time.  When the weather got warmer, it bolted - that means it started growing upward exponentially and eventually flowered and went to seed.  I posted about my naughty, bolting lettuce back on June 9th.  Since lettuce leaves tend to get bitter once the plant bolts, I considered yanking it out and giving the space to more peppers.  That is, until I found out that lettuce seeds are among the easiest to harvest and store.

Fast forward 3 weeks and the plants are now about 3 feet high and have cute little yellow flowers on them.  And this is where the magic happens!  See those grey poofballs in the photo that kind of look like teeny dandelions?  That's where the lettuce seeds are.

Harvesting lettuce seeds is insanely easy.  Just pluck off the spent blooms that have dried and turned into "mini dandelions" and rub them between your fingers.  The tiny seeds will pop right out.  Be forewarned:  the blooms are sticky with sap so you will end up with some of it on your fingers.

Buttercrunch has black seeds, but some lettuce seeds are white, depending on the variety.

Lettuce flowers only stay open for about an hour or so and the flowers won't all dry up at the same time, so you will need to revisit the plants every 1 or 2 days to pull off more dried buds.

Once you are finished, place the seeds in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.  Make sure you label the container with the type of seeds and the year they were harvested.  No more buying seed packets!

Seed storage time:  3 to 5 years
Germination percentage:  85%

I'll be planting another crop of lettuce in the fall and will use some of these seeds in the process.

Harvesting Green Bean Seeds

Green beans are another really easy seed to save for the beginning gardener.  Our Contender and Bush Lake bush-variety green beans that are pretty much done producing.  I decided to not pick the last remaining beans and let them dry on the plant.  They need to dry and mature on the plant, so don't pick them before they are dry.  This can take up to 6 weeks but, in our Sahara-like weather the past couple of weeks, it didn't take anywhere close to that long for mine to dry out.

Once they are dry and brittle, you can pull them off the plant and open the pods by hand to remove the individual beans.  If you're harvesting these in the fall and frost is a danger, you can pull up the whole plant and hang it by the roots in a cool, dry location to let the pods dry up.

Seed storage time:  3 to 5 years
Germination percentage:  75%

HINT:  Designate one or two bean plants as "seed" plants only at planting.  Don't pick ANY pods from them to eat and then harvest the seeds once the pods dry up.

If you look closely at the picture, you'll see some immature beans that are a little smaller and whiter than the mature beans.  It's questionable whether these are viable but I may plant a couple of them just to see what happens. 

Here in Missouri, we can replant beans all summer, so I may pull up my plants and replant another batch.  We were really enjoying the fresh green beans while they lasted!

A Note About Storing Onions

Since we're talking about storing things, I wanted to show you a picture of something I had mentioned a week or so ago about storing onions in pantyhose.  This is pretty old school - my grandmother did this with her worn out stockings.  It allows the onion to stay cool and dry with air flow, and it keeps any enterprising bugs out.  Plus you can tie the pantyhose around a nail or shelf support and hang the onions up.  Just add an onion, tie a knot, add an onion, etc. etc.  Then untie when you're ready ot use. What a great way to recycle and reuse!

Til next time,

I'm linked up to this week's Country Garden Showcase, Garden Life Linkup, Tuesday Garden Party and Monday Barn Hop.  Go check out what everybody else is up to!


  1. I store my onions the same way, but we put a slit up by the knot. Then we just slide them out when we need them or back in when we have them.

    1. Thanks for sharing that great idea, Sakura. It would definitely be easier than untying and retying those knots.

  2. I am definitely with you on saving seeds. I just don't always do it though. Have never saved lettuce seeds, but I do save bean seeds, seeds from all my flowers (my columbine are about ready now). Then I can either plant them into a garden plot or scatter them as I do with the columbine.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

    1. You're definitely ahead of me, as this will be my first year making a concerted effort to try to save seeds from everything. I'm assuming saving pepper seeds is pretty easy? Just let them dry out?

  3. Thanks for the timely post CP. I have been saving tomato seeds, they are a no brainer but the lettuce was puzzling me. I have Bibb & Arugula (both heirloom) that are blooming, but getting the seeds was puzzling me. I think the Bibb has the little fuzzies, it's under toille so hard to see. I don't think the Arugula has fuzzies.

    1. Your comment was really timely, because I was just reading about arugula seeds. From what I read, you're supposed to let the whole plant go brown, jerk it up and then crack open the pods on a plate. Or you can cut off the brown parts of the plant and open the pods (leaving the remaining green parts to die off.) You can see a great picture of the pods and seeds here:


      Also, arugula acts just like a weed and reseed itself if you just leave the plant where it is. Voila! New arugula will grow in its place.

  4. What an informative post--thank you for sharing your seed-saving tips with us! I haven't tried saving seeds, mostly because we get a lot of rain here, and I've found it's difficult for the seed heads to dry properly out on the plant, especially late in the growing season, but my mom, who gardens in a desert, saves seeds all the time. Take care, and happy 4th!

    1. That would definitely be a problem. If your plants get to the point where they have seeded but just aren't drying, you might consider yanking the plants and hanging them in your garage or basement to let them dry out. Goodness knows we haven't had any problems with lack of heat or dryness here this year!

  5. Thanks for the seed saving tips - we are going to try to save our pepper seeds this year. We'll see how it works out!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...