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HOW TO: Harvest Marigold Seeds

Marigolds are a popular annual that come in variety of oranges, reds, and yellows. They do well in sun or part shade, thrive in poor soil, and can tolerate neglect. The best part? They are incredibly easy to easy that they are used in gardening projects at elementary schools and nursing homes. Whether you start them indoors or out, they don't need much to flourish. Here's how to harvest and store their large(ish) seeds so you can grow these beautiful flowers next season.

The marigolds ("Kilimanjaro Vanilla White") I started from seed.

Snip some dead heads.

As mentioned above, marigolds are prolific bloomers. If you want to harvest seeds for next year, keep an eye on the flower heads that begin to fade. Once they are fully brown and withered, use your garden shears or scissors to cut the stem about three inches below the head. It's best to cut the heads after they've been sitting in the warm hot sun for a few days. If the heads are damp when cut, you'll want to place them in a dark, dry place for a few days. This gives the seeds a chance to dry out before storage.

Dead flower heads mean the seeds are fully formed inside.
Dead head, up close and personal.

Remove the seeds.

Using some scissors or your fingers, gently break open the flower heads. I do this over a plate or tray to catch any seeds that might fall out.

Look at all those little guys! Each a marigold seed waiting to be planted.

Now Shake those seeds loose! To the right of the flower head above you'll see a few individual seeds. These are what you're after (both the dark and the light part). Be sure to save about 20% more than you'll need...not all seeds germinate (for a variety of boring science reasons), so keep a few extra on hand. More on that in my HOW TO: Start Seeds post.

Harvest and store

After you get the seeds out need to store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. I use small coin storage envelopes and keep them in a recipe box in my basement. You can get a box of 100 from places like Target or Amazon for under $7, but a regular envelope or folded and taped piece of paper works just fine. Low moisture levels are important here- I run a dehumidifier 24/7 so I don't need to worry, but if your basement is damp you should choose a different location. Do NOT keep seeds in your garage! The massive temperature fluctuations from season to season will ruin the seeds.

Seed envelopes

You can start the seeds in small Dixie cups in the early spring, or plant right in the ground late May. I'm not diligent about deadheading so I have new marigold plants popping up in unusual places.

Baby marigold plant (where the two boards meet) growing from last year's seed.

And that's it. You just saved $2. Happy heading!

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