Collecting seeds is another fun activity. In addition to saving some to plant in next year's garden (as long as the parent plant wasn't grown from hybrid seeds, whose second generation often doesn't resemble the first), you can also gather seeds to glue into a collage. And, as a thoughtful gift, you can share some seeds with other gardeners.
Save the seeds from vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes as you prepare meals, letting them dry on paper towels for a week or two. Collect flower seeds whenever you see mature seed heads. Once the flowers have begun to dry out, nip or cut the seed heads from the plant, holding a bowl or paper bag underneath. Use a separate bag for each variety, labelling them as you go to avoid mix-ups. Let the seed heads dry for seven to ten days, then gently break them open over newspaper; discard the seed coverings and other debris. Some of the most reliable flowers to harvest and grow are morning glories, cornflowers, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias.
Store the seeds in small envelopes, tiny jars or film canisters, labelling each container with the type and colour of flower, and the year it was saved. To add to the fun, let your kids personalize the labels with markers and crayons. Place the containers in a larger airtight one, such as a Mason jar or freezer bag. You can also add a sealed envelope containing a teaspoon of silica gel for each envelope of seeds to keep them dry. Store the container in a cool, dry place.
Seeds remain viable for different lengths of time. For example, onions are good for about a year, beans and carrots for three years, cucumbers for five years, and lettuce and tomatoes for six years. And, amazing but true, some seeds buried with ancient Egyptian mummies are still viable today. Just before planting, you can check the viability by placing 10 seeds between two sheets of damp towel for a few days. If eight out of 10 sprout, you have 80 per cent viability. (There's a practical math lesson for older kids in this experiment, too.).
Creating a seed mosaic
A handmade seed collage is a fond winter keepsake—a reminder of summer's glory and a promise of spring's renewal. All you need is a piece of corrugated cardboard or plywood, a pencil, some white glue, a paintbrush and an assortment of dried seeds.
Have your child draw a scene or geometric shape on a piece of corrugated cardboard or plywood. (If you're stuck for ideas, you can look through colouring books, magazines or quilt books.) Using a paintbrush, cover a small portion of the design with white glue. Arrange seeds over the glued area following the lines and shapes and paying attention to variations in texture, size, shape and colour of the seeds. Continue in this manner to cover the entire mosaic. Allow the glue to dry completely before setting the collage upright.
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