How and when do you save seeds from flowers such as marigolds, zinnias and other annuals?

How long can these seeds be kept? Do they need to be put in the fridge until the next spring?

— Phyllis

You should harvest the seed of any plant you're looking to propagate when the seed head has fully matured, but before it is completely dried out.

When the seed head starts to turn brown and dry, it's time. Doing it before that sometimes gives you bad results because the seed isn't fully mature, and it won't germinate well.

Wait too long and you risk having the seed fall out of the seed head and dispersing before you have a chance to collect it.

When they start turning brown, cut the seed heads and put them in a shallow tray or box that is open to the air. You want it to dry well, so don't seal it in a plastic bag.

Once it is fully dry, discard the chaff and put the bags into an airtight container (a Ziploc bag will work here).

Keep the seed cool and dry until you are ready to seed next spring. You can store it in the refrigerator (or even the freezer), which will keep the seed fresh for a longer period of time.

As for how long the seed will be good, that depends on the kind of seed and how you store it. Some seeds last longer than others.

You should be able to count on them staying viable for two or three years.

Seed will last even longer than that, but the older it is, the lower the germination rate will be.

Can you educate those of us who wonder about the use of already brewed coffee grounds in our vegetable, flower gardens and houseplants. Do coffee grounds have any real benefit if utilized? If they do, what is your recommendation for using them?

— Bonnie

Spent coffee grounds are a great addition to your garden. They can be used as a mulch on top of the ground to shade and protect the soil, conserving water and moderating soil temperatures.

However, most people work them into the soil as an amendment. They break down fairly quickly and are very acidic, which helps lower the pH in our naturally alkaline soils.

Just sprinkle them out along the sides of your plants and rows and work them in shallowly. You can even work in the coffee filters, if you use them.

Although they'll take longer to decompose, with some other composts and manures added to the mix, your garden soil will begin to transform into something wonderful.

I even had a customer come in earlier this spring and told me that she had been using coffee grounds in her garden for years and that she was having no problems with earwigs.

It's just anecdotal, but that might be enough of a reason to use them!

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506, or email

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