There’s something very satisfying about collecting flower, herb and vegetable seeds from your own garden, and it’s sustainable gardening at it’s very best.
The plants from collected seeds may not be like their parent if the seed was visited by pollinating insects, doing the rounds of other plants. But the fun is seeing what the plant will turn out like, after all this is how new varieties appear.
If the plant was growing well in your garden, chances are the seeds will grow well there too, and of course you get free plants, which is always a good thing for frugal gardeners.
It is possible to make sure that the plant is exactly the same as it’s parent by isolating it from other similar plants or pollinating it with a paintbrush to stop cross-pollination, but that’s such a faff, so let’s not complicate things.
The first thing to do is to keep an eye on likely candidates that have developing seed-heads. Seed-heads change colour when they’re ripe, usually turning from green to black or brown, depending on the plant.
Wait for a dry day, mid-day is ideal when all the dew has evaporated, collect together a little kit:
- a tray is useful so you can see everything laid out and you can lean on it to write
- paper bags or envelopes
- a pen, and venture forth.
Choose plants that are healthy and collect plenty of seed, so you have extra to swap with other gardeners. It’s also useful to have enough to sow again if the first lot don’t germinate because it’s not warm enough, or you forget to water them, that’s not only me is it?
Bring your bounty inside and spread it out on a light coloured surface one bag at a time so they don’t get mixed up. Separate the seeds from all the stalks and seed-casings [the chaff], gently blowing on them works well.
Some seeds like hellebores are best sown when they’re fresh, but most won’t germinate untill conditions are right for them to germinate, this is usually spring when things warm up and the days get longer.
Seal them in their paper bags/envelopes, make sure everything is dry and drop them all into a sealed plastic container. Keep them in a cool, dry, frost-free place.
I make a note in next years diary so there’s no chance of forgetting all about them.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson.