How To Collect Okra Seeds For Planting Next Year

Like many vegetables, the germination rate (percentage of seeds that actually sprout) and the vigor (how strong each seedling grows to be) of an okra seed is improved if it is allowed to fully mature on the ‘vine’. Okra is best left on the stalk/vine until the seed pods dry out so much that they begin to split on their own and spill out.

Most importantly, you must purchase Heirloom seeds from the beginning if you want to be able to collect viable seeds for the next year. Heirloom seeds will say so on the packet, and sometimes are more expensive, but certainly worth it. This year we planted some Hill Country Red Okra which is an Heirloom out of South Texas. If the packet doesn’t say “Heirloom” on it somewhere then you should assume it is a much cheaper hybrid which will grow fine for you the first year, but it’s seeds will not reproduce like the original. It’s fine to grow hybrids, but there really is a thrill to saving your seeds and planting them the next year. A gardener’s version of being a grandparent!

The kids randomly planted seeds around the construction site having no idea what might actually grow. One of the Okra got a foot-hold in the clay and even though it was planted in heavy shade too late in the summer, it was able to bring one seed pod on. I didn’t discover it until I got really good at using my hands free crutch. One seed pod isn’t enough to bother cooking, plus it was far too mature to eat. This is actually a blessing after all, we now have an Okra that survived zone 5!

One month later in early November it had dried out and all the leaves had fallen off. Perhaps I should have let this seed pod remain on the plant for a few more weeks to allow it begin to crack open on it’s own. The plant was in the area I was planning to move the coop too though, so I had to pick it. 44 seeds came out of this one pod. Only 1 was clearly not viable, you can tell from the shriveled shape of the small seed on the closest edge of the paperweight. The rest appear to be fine until….

Opening the original seed packet reveals that the commercial seeds all have a dark slate coloring. In comparison my 2020 Zone 5 Okra seeds look brown and immature. This could be a cosmetic preference of the seed seller, a slight variation my plant created to survive the cooler weather, or maybe they are not fully mature. I won’t know until next year when they start coming up out of the ground. Can’t wait to compare my 2020 Zone 5 to the original South Texas Heirloom!

Okra is a Southern Side dish I don’t see often now that I’ve moved North. If you get a helping of it up here, it was likely raised in India and shipped over. If you want to do a deep dive on the subject, there is an entire book on Okra! There are lots of reasons to grow it as a new gardener, the biggest being that deer and other wildlife won’t mess with it. The stalks and leaves are so prickly that my mom would wear long sleeves and gloves….but she was harvesting a full row at a time. For the absolute best taste, harvest only the best immature okra to make up for supper that
night. If you see mature seed pods let them go and harvest them for seed later. The flavor goes downhill rapidly after the first day they’ve been picked, so only harvest a bunch at one time if you plan to prep and freeze them by bedtime.

A second good reason to start out with Okra is because it doesn’t require irrigation and likes well-drained soil. I like it as a “border crop” to create an unpleasant barrier for foraging animals. You can also use it to expand your garden planting area by using a part of the garden that the sprinkler won’t reach or in an area that you are just beginning to improve the soil.

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Too Late To Plant Rye Grass or Too Early? Trick to Sprout Grass Faster and Manage Erosion.

Planting Rye grass is the very first thing you do after disturbing the ground. Planting Rye grass is the last thing you do at the end of the day to protect whatever soil is still bare. No matter what the weather. That is my opinion. It is cheap enough to make a mistake with. Maybe it will be too dry for it to germinate, or maybe there will be a surprise shower and the Rye will sprout overnight. It does no harm to have it out a little too early in the season or a little too late because this grass takes advantage of every warm or sunny day and keeps going all winter.

While everything else is dying, the Rye Grass is sprouting! November 28th.

Rye Grass is amazing for all sorts of applications. I wish I had discovered it early on in the construction of my barn because I could have saved a lot of muddy days and wheel barrow work. Since the basement of the barn was put in at the end of October I thought I would just have to wait until Spring to get any grass to grow. It was a warm winter though, and I could have had grass growing before the post and beams went up in December.

I had heard of Rye Bread, but never heard Rye grass was so hardy. It will germinate at temps as low as 43° if the moisture is right. Old timers used to throw Rye seed right on top of the snow, so I tried it January 31 after learning about it. Once it has established a root, it will grow a little any warm day you get in the fall, winter or spring. It won’t die or even go dormant in below zero weather…in fact it will still be green. What kills it is 95° heat. Have two or three days of that weather and you will notice the stand will go golden brown.

The backhoes are long gone and we continue to correct the grade around the barn using wheelbarrows. The ground keeps settling and more and more dirt has to be added to maintain a slope in front of the barn. Water accumulation on the field side of the barn is really concerning going into winter. At least an acre of land lies up hill from the east side and we don’t want rain-water soaking in, freezing and cracking the foundation. All this earth moving is hard work, so we don’t want to lose any more dirt to erosion than we have to. We’ve used carpet scraps that neighbors put out on trash day to control the slipping in the mud and to stop erosion. Professional versions of these are called ‘Swamp Mats. However, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that those same carpet scraps could also be used to speed up germination of Rye grass seed.

My youngest wanted to earn some money, so I drove him out to the barn to move wheelbarrows of dirt even though a huge rainstorm was predicted at sundown. He did a great job and we raked it to the right shape for shedding water and sowed Rye grass all across the top. As we were finishing up we could see the thunderstorm coming in the distance so I grabbed the muddy scrap carpet and put it over the newly laid seed just to keep them from getting washed away. [We have thick lush Rye grass ditches and gullies because the seeds get washed all to one area despite straw used as protection].

November 18th Discovery

We returned a few days later to move more dirt on November 18. When we pulled off the carpets the Rye was not only all evenly distributed, it had also sprouted in record time. The little sprouts are a unique and pretty red that change to green as they mature. Thanks to the soaked carpets the seed was kept at the perfect moisture level and the thick carpet made it impossible for birds to eat. If you leave the carpet on too long it will kill the seedlings, but simply checking every 3-4 days is usually sufficient to prevent that problem. The following photos will show how much progress it made over 10 days in November.

November 20th
November 28th

Without carpets to hold the seed in place during rain, keep it moist for germination and fend off the birds, this is the kind of sprout density you get on a slope even in the summer. The seeds find it hard to get a start in straight clay. Note that the drip line off the roof is very deep.

Because of the early start Rye grass gets it is used as a ‘nursery grass’. That means when you are trying to put in a regular perennial grass that needs heat to grow, the Rye grass seed sprouts first and protect the warm weather grasses as they take longer to put down roots. The plan here is to sow perennial Alfalfa into the annual Rye grass in the spring. We will see if Alfalfa is a good grass so close to the barn. I love Rye so much maybe I should buy the more expensive Perennial Rye Grass too so we have green grass all winter, every winter.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The Amazing Amaranth: Chicken Feed, Vegetable, Cereal, and Cut Flower

File this under: “Stupid Stuff I Do So You Don’t Have To.” Growing Amaranth isn’t stupid. It’s a fantastic plant that can be eaten as a micro-green, spinach replacement, cereal grain, chicken feed, landscaping annual and cut flower. If you want to learn more about it’s ancient history, dig in here. However, the 4 ways I went about trying to collect the seeds were all fails! Next year I’ll put entire seed heads into the chicken coop as treats and only harvest 3-4 of the best ones. All the seeds I collect will be put right back into planting next spring….I won’t bother trying to clean and process the seeds for breakfast [but I could].

I didn’t purchase actual Amaranth ‘planting seeds’ for use this summer. We just had some left over organic Amaranth grain cereal which is technically seeds, but could have been completely infertile. You cook it up like Cream of Wheat, but we loved the taste of it even more and it had the same or better high energy morning benefits for us. The fact we liked eating it made me interested in growing it. There was just a little left in the bag, not enough to actually make another pot, so we experimented.

My kids got handfuls of outdated seeds when they wanted to plant around the barn construction site. The builders weren’t done and might trample any new plants, but I wanted the kids to have fun. I wasn’t watching where the kids were tossing the seeds, but a few plants actually sprung up through the clay and heavy foot traffic. The Amaranth grain was organic, so it wouldn’t have been offspring of GMO but I can’t insure that it’s not hybrid.

A few seeds washed down the path and sprouted at the edge of the chicken coop where the curious hens couldn’t reach the sprouting leaves. The big root system of the Amaranth made full use of the chicken coop’s nutrient’s and dripping chicken waterer. By summer’s end it was over 3’ tall which is pretty good for growing out of solid clay so late in the summer.

More and more seeds began to fall out of the maturing seed heads and the hens enjoyed the flavor so much they began to dig a hole at that corner of the coop trying to get every little one.

When the beautiful scarlet started to fade to brown it seemed likely they were as mature as they were going to get. I cut off the ‘flowers’ and put them in paper bags and sat the bags in the green house to dry out. We were sure to leave the bag tops wide open.

This is where collecting the seeds gets interesting. My plan had been to just strip each flower/head between my finger and thumb. It was easy to do out in the field. I don’t know if the process of the flower drying out is what made the stickers become an issue, but I wish I had done it out in the field. The first reason is because Amaranth is an excellent self-seeder and harvesting the seeds in the same area that you intend to plant next year can really give you a head start. The second reason I wish I had collected seeds outside is because Amaranth pop out of the seed heads at random angles with springy velocity. I have seeds shoved down in the cracks of my dining room ‘office’ floor now that will nether become chicken food nor grow into a giant Amaranth. The third reason to do this outside is the dust that now coats everything in my office. I probably need to replace my furnace filter now.

Method #1 Fail. When I went to remove the seeds later using my finger and thumb I discovered little tiny ‘stickers’ in my fingers. So small I couldn’t see them without my camera zoom, but I got them out with careful rubbing. The stickers felt like fiberglass and I couldn’t take it after a while. I don’t find any mention on-line of Amaranth seed pods having stickers, so perhaps growing one from a seed catalog would do away with this problem.

Method #2 Fail. Next I tried using a larger dinner fork and running that down the stem. This simply knocked off large flower plumes and shot tiny seeds all over the dining room ‘office’. The dog loved it though!

Method #3 Fail. Crushing the flower heads in the paper bags I had stored them in seemed to help reduce their volume and I could hear seeds falling to the bottom of the bag. However, the stems poked random holes in the paper letting more seeds spill on the floor. Puffs of dust came out of the top of the bag because some of the seed heads had toppled the plants over into muddy puddles during the heavy fall rains. When I peek inside the bag some of the flowers look like they haven’t been touched.

Method #4 Fail. Pouring the contents of this torn paper bag over a screen of hardware cloth releases more dust into my dining room ‘office’. The dog has seeds and flower stickers on his muzzle now. Everything just sits on top of the screen. Rubbing my hand across the pile doesn’t expose the back of my hand so I get much less of that fiberglass effect. The seed pods do get broken up, but leaves, stems, flower petals and a whole foxtail make it through. The 19 ounce end result is unacceptable if sold on the open market, but should serve my purposes just fine this coming spring as I try to convert the solid clay construction site into a decent garden.

What I should have done was follow the advice on the Internet and used an old pillow case. Fill the pillow case up, beat it against our concrete retaining wall and throw the stems into the coop so the hens could get the last clinging seeds. Below freezing today and flurries…so my dining room ‘office’ seemed a better spot. It wasn’t. It made a mess that created dust throughout the house.

Like I mentioned earlier, my first priority next year will be to cut off an entire seed head and hang it in the coop. The chickens adore the flavor of the high protein seeds and the velocity that the seeds pop out creates entertainment for family and fowl. Planting several on the edge of the coop and chicken yard lets the birds make use of the shade and periodic falling seeds. The Amaranth will again get the extra nutrients and moisture the chickens provide.

This haphazard experiment went so well I intend to plant the entire 19 ounces of seed/stems/petals into the red clay ‘garden’, chicken run and in among the erosion control area grasses. Maybe we can create some summer shade for the greenhouse and barn. Next year I may purchase these Amaranth seeds for comparison, although I’m also excited to see how my saved seeds will fair next year with earlier planting and slightly improved soil.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.