Cleaning Small Seeds

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

How DO you clean those tiny little seeds? I'm trying to seperate the chaff from veronica seed and finding it near impossible. If I were keeping it all myself I wouldn't care, but I believe seed trading etiquette dictates otherwise? (Newbie here).

Any tips or pointers would be GREATLY appreciated.
Thanks,
La

Thumbnail by Lala_Jane
Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

lala: I dump the pods into a bag or tupperware container with the lid, and shake to remove seeds from pods. I scrounge around the kitchen to find something that will help with cleaning. For large seeds I start with a huge Farberware metal colander. For smaller seeds I use a smaller plastic colander with smaller drainage holes. For tiny ones, I use a tiny wire strainer. I also have a lid, for straining cooking pots, with holes in it. I sometimes use that, too.

But I'm not all that particular. A little chaff won't hurt anything as long as you are sure you have an adequate number of seeds in the mix.

Karen

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Thanks Karen, After working the pods with my fingers I did run the whole shebang through a small mesh strainer, but just as much chaff fell though as seed. With slightly larger seed I have gently "blown" the chaff away, but in this case the seed is no heavier than the chaff so that little trick only resulted in scattered seed.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Lala: Also remember you can approach the job from different angles. You can try to sift seeds from chaff, or chaff from seeds. In your picture above it looks like, using a very small wire strainer, if you keep stirring with a spoon, much of the small chaff might break up and fall thru and seeds be held in the strainer.

What kind of seeds are they?

Karen

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

They're veronica seeds Karen. And you're right, I really worked the pods (which are also very tiny) over in an attempt to get all the seed out.

Springfield, MA(Zone 6a)

Thanks for asking the question, Lala_Jane - I was wondering the same thing.

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Sometimes you've just got to allow some of the chaff to be packaged with the seeds. Most gardeners understand. Just make sure you give a more generous amount to allow for the chaff, and I'd mention it on the package or in your correspondence.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

put a few pinches of your seed & chaff mix into the inverted lid of a shoe box. tip the lid away from you to get evertthing to one end, then slowly tip it back toward you while giving sharp finger taps to the sides of the lid. heavier than the chaff, seed will roll down the incline. when the angle of the incline no longer inhibits the chaff from coming down the incline of the lid, STOP tipping the lid but continue to tap the sides if seeds are still present on the higher end.

if you get to a point where chaff obeys the law of gravity too well, use an old playing card or a stiff business card to push material up the incline, repeatedly. this should help loosen straggler seeds while keeping the chaff where it belongs.

set the lid on a flat surface and removed the seeds you have separated.

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

That's a great idea, LazLo. A shoe box lid would give a large area, plus a definitely lip around the edge so nothing spills that shouldn't. Some of the seeds I have to compromise with chaff are pyrola, achillea, etc. If the seed looks like powder, it's hard to separate, and you'll lose 80% of the seed in the attempt because it clings to the chaff.

Morgantown, WV(Zone 6a)

What really adds to the fun is when you get a seed head that has very few seeds & you are trying to separate chaff from chaff. I am new to seed collecting so I am "playing it by ear". I had some yellow fern leaf yarrow that I was trying to get the seeds from. I shook & poked but I could not figure out what was what. Then I found one more head in the garden & when I turned it upside down it showered down the seeds. I still couldn't separate the seeds & chaff very well but at least there was something to separate. LOL
Pam

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Pam: When the seeds are that small I don't worry about chaff. Put it in a seed bag and the seeds will generally fall to the bottom. You can just plant that and the chaff won't hurt anything. If trading you should tell your trader up front that it contains a lot of chaff and then give them a generous amount.

Karen

Morgantown, WV(Zone 6a)

I do that but I just like to examine closely first to be sure there are seeds there. In my case it's a good thing I did because the earlier yarrow had almost no seeds. Or at least they didn't come out with the chaff if they did.
Pam

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

When seeds are nothing but a fine powder, I store them in a glassine bag, then in plastic. If I put them directly in plastic, the static makes the stick to the sides.

Morgantown, WV(Zone 6a)

Good idea! I've purchased seeds before that came in plastic & it was almost impossible to plant them. They wouldn't come out of the bag or if they did they were so charged they stuck to everything (except the soil).

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Lots of great input here. Thanks all of you!

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

I've sifted small seeds through sieves or tea strainers. That can be helpful.

Marion, AR(Zone 7b)

Ugh, I wish I would have read this YESTERDAY, after spending a couple of hours getting only a palm full of seeds ---- WITH A TWEEZER!!!!! HAHAHHA.

Next time I'll package both together and explain that.
I'll also explain clearly what the seed looks like as sometimes the chaff looks like the seed.

:)

Marion, AR(Zone 7b)

What I've done with flowers like Rudbeckia and Echinacea is to cut the dried flowers off the stem so that there is no stem left. I put several flower heads into a large, empty coffee can,and put the lid on and shake vigorously. Then, I dump the seeds onto a paper plate.

Lotsa seeds....... Just need to try the gravity trick Lazlo talked about in the top lid of a shoe box.

Thumbnail by pford1854
Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

I would put 10 of the "balls" in a plastic envelope (make sure they're brown and dry) and smash them. Then send everything together. :)

LalaJane, I would have said this on the CG Swap thread when you asked, but my Veronica just turned brown yesterday. I didn't know those little balls even had stuff in them-- I thought those were the seeds!

Suzy

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

After a while, you learn which seed separate easily and which seeds must be sent with the chaff. It is part of the seed saving experience.

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

LOL Pford I hear you. I have devoted HOURS to those veronica seeds....probably losing 1/2 of them in the process.....only to find out that it's acceptale to include the chaff in situations such as this. Experience (and the advice of those who HAVE experience) is a wonderful thing.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Jane, I'm surprized to find anyone else up and online so early.

Karen

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Oh man... i was out gathering coreopsis seeds, and i was trying to get some of the chaff out of the seeds... i blew just too hard and blew all the seeds into my rose bushes!! arg

another day.....

so far, i've just been doing it manually on the kitchen table.... sometimes with wax paper to make it easier to separate the seeds from the junk.

Marion, AR(Zone 7b)

tcs1366, guess you'll have some coreopsis in your roses this next year, huh? Dang-it. :^)

I just don't see how the big companies do it. They send you a seed packet with Seeds - not chaff. hahaha

North West, OH(Zone 5b)

Oh Karen I don't know whether I'm coming or going. My company just got bought out and they are shuffling us around like crazy. I've been on 3 shifts in the last 3 weeks and I don't know when I'm supposed to be sleeping, when I'm supposed to be eating, or when I'm supposed to be collecting seeds.

La

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I bought some wire "cloth" - i.e. fine mesh squares in several sizes. If anyone wants to test some extra-fine mesh, let me know.

I also got some nylon mesh (2 sizes) from a fabric shop, and a 7" embriodery hoop. However, the nylon mesh works fine stretched over an empty quart yogurt container (plastic), held with a rubber band.

Corey

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Good idea, Corey. I use just about anything I can find in the kitchen, and sometimes I just go out on the porch on a breezy day and let the wind do some of the work for me. I step away from the direct wind and see how things go. I've also used tea balls, small strainers, mesh shelf liner, etc. Here in Southcentral Alaska, it is seed collecting time for sure. Some of the seeds have either been collected by now or have spilled from their casings and spread themselves. We had a cold summer followed by a warm, dry Indian summer, followed by a wet, wet period... needless to say, most of my seeds were either collected during the dry period, or they are washed away. Those I harvested a month ago are bagged up, but the more recent ones are in dixie cups drying or waiting to be sifted out. This thread reminds me to get back at it, as the Meconopsis seeds need to go into the freezer.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Since I moved to the maritime Pacific NorthWet, north of Seattle and 2-3 miles from the Sound, seed colelcting has been a race between the Cool summer and the wet Fall. All my flowers are still colorful and grwoing, but the rains are starting.

Last year I collected some sponges and separated seeds from mold. :-(

For some future year, i am hoping my little bamboo (Fargesia rufa) will someday put out culms thick and long enough to be used as poles. Then I might make "umbrellas" for plants I want good seed from.

Then I would find out whether I had made umbrellas, or hang-gliders.

For seed cleaning, I also have two science-fictionish ideas.

One would simulate a very steady controllable breeze. A long, tall, narrow carboard box with a fan or vacuumn cleaner exhaust and baffles at one end. The baffles would let me slow and control the speed of the air shooting through the long axis of the box, and make it less turbulent.

Then, some kind of dividers in the bottom of the box, and a hole on top, near the start of the airstream, to slowly pour seeds through.

Like a mass spectrometer, dense and large objects would fall rapidly, while less-dense and small objects would be blown further, or out the other end. Theoretically, good seeds should fall into the first divider, dead seeds into the second, and chaff be blown right out the end.

The second idea is even more Rube-Goldberg-ish: a fluidized bed. Make a tall, narrow cylinder or cone with very fine screen at the bottom that would hold back even the finest seeds. Preferably clear. Blow air in the bottom, through the screen, with fine control over the air velocity. Start out with air moving very slowly, and pour seeds and chaff into the top. All would fall down onto the screen.

Then slowly increase the airflow THROUGH the bed of seeds and chaff. At some speed, the chaff and dust would levitate and be blown out the top, leaving only seeds behind.. Then just stop the airflow and pour out the clean seeds.

This might also be controllable enough to separate dead and small seeds from live and large seeds.

Either scheme should work as well with pounds of seeds as with grams!
.
OR ... just pour seeds and chaff from bowl to bowl in a light breeze. But where's the Mad Scientist Glee in that?

Corey

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

You certainly seem to have thought this out more than I, Corey. Your efforts remind me of my son toiling away to separate gold flakes from the river sediment. He's got gold fever, but he's 44, so he's a bit old to convince him to harvest seeds instead! Many of the seeds I harvest are small, some no more than a powder... so small I store them in glassine bags so they don't stick to the sides.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> seem to have thought this out more than I,

But it's like the old joke or cliche: If you ask how to do something, and the answer starts out "I iknow several ways ..." STOP LISTENING.

If he knew a GOOD way he wouldn't about several.

Me, I mostly just futz around rolling and scraping seeds and chaff back and forth on a plate or in a bowl until they are pretty clean. But I have SEVERAL theories and some day will have enough time and be silly enough to get fancy ...

Actually, my first science project will involve wire cloth.

I just thought of another blue-sky project! Electro-static separation! A slowly turning roller with a strong static charge. Small chaff (or very fine seed) would tend to cling but heavier or larger things would be heavy enough to drop off.

Now, where did I put that Van de Graff generator ?
Corey

.

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Keep up the good work, Corey! I'll be thinking of you the next time I am standing out on my porch on a breezy day with a plate of seeds in my hand!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks. "They never understood me at University!"

I just tested my wire cloth collection on some small lavatera seeds and was not thrilled. Seeds vary in size!

The most effective mesh was 6-per-inch, which let me quickly separate pods and stems and leaf fragments from seeds and small chaff. What it held back needed more rubbing.

A 16-mesh screen held back 95% of the seeds, and maybe those that passed through it were too small to be healthy.

A 10-mesh screen passed all the seeds and a lot of chaff.

But it does seem a little helpful to have all the chaff on a plate be about the same size. Then blowing on them has a more uniform effect.

It seemed most practical to puff and blow some chaff from one side of a bowl to the other side, and halfway up the sides. Then I could use my thumb or a finger to push chaff over the side while avoiding seeds.

"TOBY!!"

(Toby's my cat)

"WHERE DID YOU PUT MY VanDeGraff GENERATOR AND WIND TUNNEL ?!?"

Corey

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Hope your cat has a good memory, Corey. Most of my seed separating issues are not due to quantity of materials, but rather that the seeds are so minute that they often blow away with the chaff. I use a fine strainer to sift the seeds out of the chaff, but often bits and pieces remain.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> I use a fine strainer to sift the seeds out of the chaff, but often bits and pieces remain.
>> rather that the seeds are so minute that they often blow away with the chaff

I agree, especially with small seeds. Seives can only remove chaff that is larger than your largest seeds in a batch, or smaller than the smallest seeds in that batch. I'll often re-rub the chaff after it is very dry, hooping to reduce more of it to be smaller than the smallest seeds, but there is always chaff left right around the same size as the seeds.

I haven't tried one person's method of floating chaff and dead seeds away from live seeds.

Corey

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

I guess I just opt to let a bit of chaff get planted with the powderlike seeds.

Central, TX(Zone 8b)

Minette Marr showed me a why to catch chaff using a small balloon - crumble the seed capsules (I do this in a small box bottom), rub the inflated balloon on carpet or the top of your head to create a static charge then hold the balloon above the seed/chaff - wallah - the lighter chaff "jumps" to the balloon surface; just wipe it off and repeat

Minette Marr is a staff member at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and collects native seeds for the Millennium Seed Bank Project - a global plant conservation effort developed by England's Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.

For more information view:
http://www.wildflower.org/gallery/search_image.php?newsearch=true&id_collection=12

Ms. Tommie

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Don't powder-like seeds cling, as well?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Ms. Tommie,

Thanks for the idea! I've been thinking of ways to do it with rollers and Saran wrap, but "a balloon" is infinitely simpler.

I'll have to buy some ballons and try that.

My guess would be that, when cleaning VERY small seeds, you might use the balloon to pick up the seeds & finest chaff, but leave behind bigger chaff.

It might depend on how dense/heavy the seeds are. Small dense seeds might have less "static cling". It seems as if it would work best when the chaff was very dry..

But I'm just speculating, I haven't tried it yet.

Corey

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

If anyone wants a little 8 mesh hardware cloth (coarse screening), check this thread:

Seed Trading: Hardware cloth offer (mesh screens) for seed-cleaning sieves
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1163163/

Corey

Somewhere in, MD(Zone 7b)

Ok, well... this is a slightly old topic, but after reading about using a balloon and the static charge to collect seeds, I just kept giggling to myself from this vision of everyone here looking like this:

Thumbnail by speediebean

Post a Reply to this Thread

You cannot post until you , sign up and subscribe. to post.
BACK TO TOP