Skip to content

Let’s start at the VERY beginning with S-O-I-L + S-E-E-D


Do you remember the musical “Sound of Music. There was a song called, “Do Re Me”-I thought of this song when trying to explain  how to start an immunity garden….in the song Marie sings to the children….

Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with – A – B – C
When you sing you begin with DO – RE – MI….


When you start an immunity garden  

You begin with S-O-I-L

Here is a great article about building soil...(read more here)

Once my soil is ready

You begin with S-E-E-D

In Palm Rae Potager, I start at the very beginning since it is a superb place to start. Once I have built the S-O-I-L. I start with quality S-E-E-D. I usually start with “organically certified seed” for I grow organically + that means no synthetic fertilizers,pesticides or growth hormones in the life of my plants. I only purchase seed from organic growers or local farmers that save seed in the USA, where I live. If you reside in another country, try to support your local seed farmers for they are growing food right where you are living. The seed will be acclimated to your growing area and perform much better. Hopefully, they will be organic growers. If they are not, you can start with “non-organic” seed + grow organically and save your seed. Then you will have the beginning of seed grown organically in your area to share.


You need to consider if you want to save seed yourself, you need “open-pollinated seed” which means it will grow back true-to-type. I wrote a blog post last year on saving seed in urban areas and isolation problems-(read more here).Once you purchase quality seed, you have finished the most significant step; BUT…there is a big BUT here, I must add an important detail,from my experience. I have found over the years that sometimes you have to grow out seed from several sources, for you never know if the seed is good quality until you grow it out! You can’t take the word of the site you find on-line/seed saved by others. I am not saying others are dishonest, BUT sometimes seed companies, have others saving their seed + may be unaware their seed crossed due to “isolation distance”for seed saving. I have ordered seed and found out that it was not what it said it was, and there was no way, I could start back to the beginning. It was the middle of summer, a bit too late to start my plants again. On the positive side, I have enjoyed some of these mistakes! This past year, I had quite a few errors from seed sources, but they were lovely surprises so I did not mind.

If you have an organic garden, you will want to  purchase “organic certified seeds”, but sometimes, these seeds can be rather expensive.I always try to search for organic  open-pollinated seed grown locally. Open-pollinated seed  will adapt to your local growing conditions and climate year after year.

There are some seeds,for example, flower seed that are often not grown organically. I also have a few vegetables that I enjoy growing every year + have not been able to find an organic seed source. If I can’t find an organic seed source, then I grow out my seed and save it from my own organically grown plants.

 I have found Seed Savers Exchange to have an excellent resource for seed saving-read more here.


This picture shows the stages of  Sunset Hibiscus (Abelmoschus manihot ) before it starts producing seed. To the right a flower emerges, middle it fades + to the left you see the beginning of seed formation. Timing is essential for you need to wait for the plant to produce seed…

What is a seed?

A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food


Timing is everything for you need to be patient as the plant forms a seed…here the green disk is what eventually forms for the Lavatera trimestris which will turn black-brown as it prepares to fall to the ground….


If you don’t collect your seed it will disappear + often times reseed…it happens in a blink of an eye + many plants will reseed this way in the garden. If you want to share with others, you need to collect the seed before it disappears…


I found Pink Blush- Lavatera trimestris  fun to collect for the seeds are hidden behind black-brown discs + have an interesting texture. I  harvest their seed when they are encased by gently lifting the disc from the plants +  find the small seeds behind..what a great system!

I have grown two Plants from the Same Family for several years + I find their seed very different from one another. I grow Lavatara trimestris for  pollinators + it looks beautiful growing in the vegetable garden. I grow Hibiscus Sunset for its beauty and also for the edible leaves which are rich in protein.


It is related to okra + looks lovely mixed with other vegetables, flowers and herbs. It does stand tall!

HIbisucs Sunset

Abelmoschus manihot

Family Malvaceae 

Genus: Abelmoschus 

Species: Maniho 

 Other names: Aibika, Sweet Hibiscus, Edible Hibiscus, Palmate-leaved Hibiscus, Sunset Muskmallow, Sunset Hibiscus


The leaves are tasty!


Sunset Hibiscus forms lovely seed heads that appear in the late fall garden…


Make sure they dry on your plant before bringing the seed heads inside. I let them sit around a few days….


It produces  fuzzy, textured seeds… I found it interesting these two plants are from the same Family, but they  are as individual as people

A great resource ( I use often) for seed saving when trying to figure out Latin names is-Dave’s Garden (do visit this site for it is an excellent resource)

Seed Saving will expose you to the wonders of nature…what a great system for it works every time, year after year. Isn’t it amazing?


Lavatera trimestris

Family: Malvaceae

Genus: Malva

Species: trimestris

Cultivar: Pink Blush


I grew out a variety of red lettuce this year from different farmers,hoping to find the best one for my growing area.

Things  you need to know when saving seed are Family, Genus, Species + Cultivar. At Dave’s Garden there is a great article titled, Genus, Species, and Cultiavars, Oh My? written by Susanne Talbert:….”The last three classifiers of botanical taxonomy are genus, species and cultivar. These are the most important and arguably all you need in any plant search, classification, or reference. Even if each individual generic (genus) or specific epithet (species name) is confusing and hard to pronounce, their function is not” (to read the entire article)….


Different people have different views on isolation so I suggest you try saving and see what happens! Here is a great site for seed saving + gives you an excellent  chart for plant isolation-(read more here)

The past few years, I have been growing a variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers together in our urban potager to decide which ones work best in our zone 5, USA growing area. I save seed from different ones, but due to growing in the city, I am dependent on seed growers, for certain plants due to I can’t isolate plants at a great distance. Farmers in rural areas can isolate different plants that require a larger distance for seed saving. I purchase all my seed from local farmers( USA) + I try to avoid the Big Seed Companies. Next growing season, attempt to save some of your seed + share with others. The more we share, the better the world will be!

34 replies »

  1. Another wonderful, fact filled and helpful post Robbie. Seed collecting has to be on the list of things to do in the near future – especially if any of my newly planted heirlooms come through for me. Sunshine hours have been pretty limited this growing season though – we had two lovely days and it’s back to rain again! Still, one can hope 🙂

    • You are so right,one can hope:-) It seems it is either too much or too little:-) We had a rainy spring last year + a late start so seed saving was a bit more challenging this year. Enjoy it for it does pass quickly. I am sending lovely sunshine your way:-) We have crisp, blue skies today but only 36 which some people may not like- I personally feel 36 degrees is warm! Happy Seed Collecting:-)

  2. Brilliant. I love those Sunset Hibiscus seed heads – haven’t seen those before. Will check out if I can grow them here.

      • Have you eaten it Robbie? it was only when I read the above and another website I realised it could be eaten – I was just admiring the seed heads! I’ve found a place in France that will mail-order from your weblink – will see if I can source closer – it sounds like a great plant.

      • Yes, I have eaten it and it tastes pretty good. I need to grow a bit more to use in salads. I trialed it a year ago + saved the seeds( got from a gal in Florida) and another site but they don’t sell it anymore. I grew some under lights this year from my own seed. I then put them out in the garden ( seedlings + I seeded some directly in the soil), but the exciting thing was it reseeded in my own garden-YAHOO! Our season is so short that seeding it outside was okay, but the leaves and flowers were not blooming until early fall. They did go to seed + I collected some more seed. There are so many laws about sending seeds, if your country is okay with seed from USA, I will send you some from my crop. Just e-mail me and I’ll send it your way, but after the holidays:-) I will grow more in 2015 and feature them in a salad. It was weird the first time eating them, which always is with new plants. I figure, if I don’t die- well-good to go-lol, just kidding!

  3. I’m so excited I have some of your Sunset Hibiscus! The flower and seed pods are so beautiful! Great and informative post and your photos, per usual, are divine!

    • awww-thank you:-)I am so excited for you to grow them + I get to see your beautiful photos of an amazing plant:-) I am waiting to see if you try the edible leaves:-) I tried them + liked them a lot:-)

  4. What a great class today, Robbie! It’s amazing how when some of those plants have reached their most unattractive state is when they become “pure gold” and offer up seeds to produce continued beauty, food . . . I used to save marigold seeds but I think that was the extent of it. How rewarding!

    • It really is neat to see how they flower + create seed. It is a miracle + amazing to watch:-) It also saves money:-)for you don’t have to keep buying seed-it is our gift from the earth:-)

  5. I am quite new to seed saving so this was a great post for me, thank you!
    I totally love your photos of seed heads and seeds. Aren’t they just fabulous?! Little dried up capsules which grow into flower meadows or rows of vegetables; magical.

    • 🙂 Karen-you are so right they are fabulous? Little gifts for us + a reminder to plant them again the next year:-) truly magical!For if we forget-they often reseed + surprise us the next season!

  6. I have been stumbling over Dave’s Garden for years now in my feverish searches online. I am like the terminator when I am hunting out information about something and I usually end up landing in Dave’s Garden at least once before being pointed in the right direction. Are Roselles related to either of your hibiscus species? I looked at those seeds and noticed that they were very similar to my roselles. At the moment they are transitioning through to a rosy red round leaf but I know that soon the leaf will change. First year I have grown them, as well as okra (slug plant 😉 ). It will be interesting to see how they go, especially in our long dry summer. I love the info about saving seed and we are doing our best to generate and maintain the healthiest soil that we can. You can’t grow quality vegetables that feed your mind, body and soul without quality soil foundations.
    Cheers for all of the lovely links :). I want to get to the stage where we are able to save our own seed and take the excess in to the local permaculture seed swap days. I am also going to grow lots of nut, fruit and perennial babies to take in for swapping. Sharing is caring, not only for each other but for the earth. If we share what we love, we nurture and grow it in our society and the more generous we are with that love, the quicker this revolution is going to grow as more people learn to love the generosity and fecundity of nature 🙂

    • 🙂 I was looking that up the other day-funny you ask-lol. Really, I was! great minds think similar-lol I got some seed from a gal that grows her own( hibiscus tea). She has two types. I wanted to continue growing Hibiscus sunset for salads and protein, so I was checking it out.
      Dave’s is where I go to figure out if something will cross or not. I am shooting for “biodiversity ” on my lot with food growing and seed saving should be good if I have great diversity! Great for the environment + me,too:-)

      Family: Malvaceae
      Genus: Hibiscus
      Species: sabdariffa

      Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
      Genus: Abelmoschus (a-bel-MOS-kus) (Info)
      Species: manihot (MAN-ee-hot) (Info)

      The genus + species is different, so I would guess they would not cross. I am growing them both to see if it works-we shall see:-) My guess-they would be okay:-)
      What do you think?

    • “Plant Families: Families define the basic form of the flower parts of plants. All plants with the same flower (and reproductive) structure are in the same family. Similar seed saving techniques are used for the members within a family.

      Genus: More closely related plants within a plant family. Crosses between genera are rare but can occur.

      Species: Botanically recognized plants with similar fruit, flowers, and leaves. Plants within one species will readily cross with each other.”
      looks like there is a possibility but very low:-)

      Cultivars: A “cultivated variety”, or a variety of plants within a species that has been selected by humans to cultivate. When saving seeds we strive to maintain the purity of a cultivar.
      Looks like it could happen, but more than likely not-I will see what happens:-)

  7. Oh, that Hibiscus Sunset is on my definitely grow list! I was going to grow that in TI Park next year but now I’ll have to grow some myself, too! I never knew you could eat the leaves. Just love that pale citron color, too. I use Dave’s a lot in researching plants – I find their vendor ratings helpful, too. I always purchase seeds from companies who have taken the Safe Seed Pledge founded by High Mowing Seeds in VT. I am lucky to have many wonderful seed options here in NY. I do order from High Mowing and also Hudson Valley Seed Library. If you become a member, they send you a packet of seeds each year to grow out and save and return a portion of the seed to them for community projects – a wonderful way to learn and help preserve the heirlooms.

    • I agree Dave’s Garden is great! I use his watchdog before I buy anything garden related. I learned that lesson about 15 yrs ago-lol. Pays to make mistakes with companies- then you get wise + find a great resource like Dave’s Watchdog:-)
      I love High Mowing for they introduce vegetables that work well in our shorter seasons:-) Something others that live in warmer areas do not have to worry about.
      I found the leaves of sunset HIbiscus- tasty:-) I have no doubt you will enjoy them-they are pretty! I love their seed pods-could it be any easier-lol

  8. I had no idea there was a variety of hibiscus with edible leaves! Or is it all hibiscus?
    I love saving seeds. I save them from my own plants, whether or not I remember if they’re open pollinated (oops!) It sometimes gives me a dud in my seed trays, sometimes it works beautifully.
    We don’t have any local seed savers here that I’ve found, but I do save seed from our local farmers by putting some aside to dry after buying their organic produce at the farmer’s market. It’s the only way I’ve lucked into growing a variety of melon that can stand our climate!

    • They are part of the same plant family, but Hibiscus Sunset Manihot is edible. I never knew about it until, I read a site a few years ago. I wanted to grow it for it had such a lovely flowers + edible. You are smart:-) to collect seed from the food you like locally-that is how you get what you enjoy:-) The seed must do well for you since it is from local farmers. I would say you are the local seed saver:-)

  9. A great post Robbie. I always save seed but it is not always carefully labelled as it should be. I often sow the contents of my pocket and wait to see what comes up. All my pockets have seeds in them.
    I love the Rose Hibiscus

    • Thank you, Chloris:-) That Rose Hibiscus is a beauty:-) I learned from my father to have my pockets filled with seed-daughters of gardners!I knew you would appreciate carefully labelled seed:-) I remember, one of your posts where you talked about knowing the “correct” name of a plant. It is so important for how would you know which ones you could save??? I find it difficult to save some seeds in the city, I need an isolation of 1/4 to a mile or more for certain plants. I live on less then 1/3 of an acre in the city. I don’ t know what is growing a block away:-( I depend on the seed farmers so I support them in their seed saving by only purchasing from them. I have found over the years, you do have to be careful who you purchase from + research for too many seed sellers have the “wrong” “latin name” on their label! I ordered a lovely heirloom red zinnia ( circa 1900) and wanted to save the seed that year + what I got were zinnias in dark purples + pinks + crimson but not the zinna I wanted to save. It was in late July and too late to order more seed, so I lost out on saving that heirloom seed. but:-) being the positive thinker I am :-)I enjoyed the deep colors the seed saver did come up with for this mix-A lovely surprise + I saved the seed mix:-)

  10. Thanks for focusing on beginnings! Did you know that yesterday was International Soil Day? I tried to put a post together but fate intervened. 😉 Enjoy your winter break–spring planting is just around the corner!!!

    • Hi Lori:-)No, I had no idea it was ” international Soil Day” + I had no idea, there was even a day of celebration for soil-lol. I need to remember that for next year:-) I know it is around the corner- I am starting a lot of my spring crops now:-) The break is quick!

  11. I remember that my grandmother saved seeds. She had a big garden. I learn so much every time I visit your blog 🙂

    • My grandfather did too, + my dad was always saving seeds from plants on our property. I guess it is in the DNA:-) Must be a seed saving one-lol. I am getting better at it each season. I have to admit , I have be MORE focused- for the window to collect seed is very short. They drop + when they do, well, you can’t find them!
      It makes me feel good that people learn from what I post–that was my goal for this blog. As I learn, I wanted to share + hope others learned, too:-)

%d bloggers like this: