Questions on success with Seed Saving, Starting; How & what to clean; Proper Storage; How to get baby plants to GROW; what it takes to have SWEET melons
(1) We always store our seeds like cucumber, okra, watermelon etc. in the fridge. It is best if you can store them in glass jars in the fridge.
For onion, garlic, etc. we store them in mesh bags hung in the garage.
(2) The only seeds we find necessary to clean is tomato. Scoop out the seeds with the pulp from the tomato you have selected to save seed from and put in a glass jar overnight. The next day the seeds and pulp should have little bubbles on top. It probably will have a slight smell to it also. This is fermentation taking place. Wash the seeds in a cold water bath. Good seeds will sink to the bottom. Bad seeds and pulp will float to the top. Pour or scoop off the pulp and bad seeds then strain the water off of the good seeds. Dry for a couple of days on a flat surface such as a dinner plate or glass pane inside or in a shady area. Do not dry in the sun. After they are dry store them in a glass jar in the fridge. Seeds treated this way are viable for several years if you keep them cool.
(3) When you ask about the dryness of seeds, it is according to which seeds you have in mind. Sweet corn will be dry enough when the hull is hard and cannot be dented with a finger nail. Corn is best for seed if it is dried on the stalk in the field. Pumpkin, cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, cucumbers etc. are dry enough when the fruit has matured enough for the seeds to be plump and hardy. I like to dry these on glass in a shady area. Any of these seeds can be planted as soon as they are taken from the vegetable if they are fully matured. Tomato seeds should be treated as explained above. Pepper seeds can be taken from the pepper when it is mature and dried on glass like other seeds. Multiplying onions should be pulled when the tops fall over. They should then be dried outside until the tops shrivel and dry. Cut the tops about 1/2 inch above the bulbs and store in a mesh bag where there is air movement. Inside a shed or garage is good for these. Garlic should be treated as onions.
(4) Here in South Texas we have no problem keeping seedlings warm. ALL seeds should be started in sterile soil. They should be kept moist until they start to emerge from the soil. Then place a florescent light 1 to 2 inches from the plants and keep it on them 24 hours per day. It is best to water small seedlings from the bottom up. Try to never water with a mister or pour water onto the soil from above. This damages the seedlings and contributes to damping off.
(5) Black Diamond watermelons are just like any other watermelon. You should never harvest them until the curl and spoon at the base of the melon is completely dead and dry. This is the little leaf right at the bottom of the melon that resembles a spoon. The curl will be just below the spoon leaf and looks like a pigs tail. When those are dead and dry, the melon is at it's sweetest. Watermelons, just like their name implies, needs lots of water while they are growing. The mistake most people make is watering them when they are mature. Too much water at this time will cut down on the sugar content of the melon. This is also true of cantaloupe. You can tell when a cantaloupe is at its sweetest by looking at where the stem joins the melon. You should see the stem starting to separate from the melon. If this is not happening, do not move the melon. If the stem is starting to separate, lift the melon gently about 1 inch from the ground. If the stem pulls away from the melon easily, the melon is ready. If the stem does not pull away, leave it until the next day and try again. Never pull on a cantaloupe to separate it from the vine even if the melon looks like it is over ripe. If you follow these rules for watermelons and cantaloupe, you should enjoy the sweetest of the harvest.
(6) We have found cucumbers do best when planted about 1/4 inch deep and kept moist until they sprout. Cucumbers should be planted as early in the spring as possible. They will not tolerate frost very well. The new light floating row covers can protect them from frost or a light freeze. They also like lots of compost as they are heavy feeders. When they start to produce you MUST pick them every day. You must also be sure that you pick them thoroughly. Never leave one on the vine to maturity unless you want to leave that particular one to get seeds from. When a cucumber starts to turn yellow on the vine, that vine will die. During our dry season, which is right now, we water our cucumbers every other day. We also feed them a compost tea once per week.
Hope this helps.
Following are some suggestions I have found helpful over the years when planting seeds.
(1) Always store seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Even new seeds should be refrigerated overnight before planting.
(2) If the seeds are large enough, they should be pre-soaked in lukewarm water before planting. Seeds will not sprout until they have soaked up a certain amount of moisture. This just helps get them off to a faster start.
(3) Space seeds so their leaves will touch when they are mature. This cuts down on weeds and conserves moisture.
(4) After seeds are planted do not allow them to dry out before sprouting. Drying then wetting, followed by drying and then wetting causes seeds to be stressed and many will not sprout. It is best to keep the bed evenly moist until the seeds are up.