Seed can be saved from many of our plants. It means that we can make good use of what they leave for us as they come to the end of their growing season. Some plants lend themselves to having their seed pods left – to give us some autumn or winter interest – and a source of food for the birds that visit our gardens – or we can have a go at harvesting some!
Seeds come in different types of packaging – in addition to paper packets at garden centres - there are several different natural types:
Berries – like holly Capsules – like poppy Catkins – like hazel Cones – like pine Nuts – like oak Pods – like sweet peas Winged seed - like sycamore
Harvesting seed can be rewarding and is relatively easy.
We’ve recently tidied up a few borders and thought we’d try and save some seeds from some poppies, Nigella (Love in a Mist) and our Suntastic sunflowers.
Before we started we thought about a few things that you might want to consider:
Seed heads can ripen quickly. We need to keep an eye on what’s happening as if we leave it too late the seed heads will split and the seeds will go everywhere!
Seeds are usually set about two months after the plant has flowered. We try and have two goes at collecting seed – we take some seed heads early and let them dry before shaking the actual seeds out. The remaining seed heads we leave on the plant and then take them later.
If we’re collecting seeds from berries then we need to get to them before the birds do! We always take some for ourselves and leave some for our feathered friends.
We only collect seeds from healthy plants. This should improve our chances of getting quality seedlings and plants.
How and when to collect your seeds.
Always try and collect your seed on a dry day and as soon as the seed heads ripen. An indication that the seed head is ready is when it changes colour - from green to brown, black or red.
If you don’t catch them then the seed heads will open and the seeds will be released as nature intended!
Pick the seed heads and lay them out to dry in a nice warm place. This will mean that the seeds will be more easily extracted from the heads.
If the heads don’t open when they’re dry gently crush them – making sure you’ve got something close by to catch the seed.
Collect nuts around the time they would naturally fall either by hand-picking, or by placing a sheet at the base of the tree and shaking the branches until they fall. Or simply pick them up off the ground – if they’re still looking healthy and unnibbled!
After getting your seeds you need to clean them by removing any of the surrounding material – chaff. Chaff can harbour mould, pests and diseases and if you don’t clean it off then the seeds might simply rot.
And finally here's one of my most meaningful seed savings. When my last surviving grandparent died 20 odd years ago I planted an oak sapling in all of their memories
A few years later I went back to see how the tree was doing. Conscious it was part of a managed woodland I picked up a few acorns from the ground beneath the very tree I'd planted some 10 years earlier
And here's one of them today. I just need to find a suitable spot to plant it - it's not going to thrive in that potato sack for ever!