The summer months are not only a time of bounty with flowers opening quicker than you can blink, it’s also a time of harvesting seeds. Collecting flower seeds can save you a whole heap of cash, especially of you are wanting a cut flower garden. Saving just a couple of flowers and allowing them to go to seeds is enough to double, quadruple or more, your cutting patch.
This is also a great activity to do with kids, teaching them the life cycle of plants. My 12 year old recently informed me how he had learned that seeds are carried in nature in many different ways. Some seeds pop out of their shells, e.g. Lathyrus & pansies, others are carried on the wind like the dreaded dandelions, other eaten by birds and deposited all around, others travel by water propulsion and some are happy to just fall to the ground.
Knowing how seeds are carried is vital in ensuring that you collect at the right time. I have recently gone to collect some Lathyrus seeds and found that all of the pods had already popped and I had missed my moment. I also missed most of my Hellebores this year with all the bad weather going on I was too distracted!
Not all seeds come true to the parent plant so it is possible to develop your own strains by hybridizing, Dahlias & Hellebores are particularly good for this.
My top 10 seeds collection tips:
1. Always collect seeds from your best performing plants. You don’t want to clone a bad one!!
2. Once flowers begin to fade the seed pods will be formed. When they have turned from green to brown and fall out of the pod easily is when they are ready.
3. Check plants regularly to ensure that the seeds have not already been distributed.
4. If seeds are not easily removed from the pod then they may not be ready yet. They can be left to dry out and mature for a few more weeks if needed but it is best to leave then on the plant to do this for as long as possible as they will be much more viable, with a higher germination rate.
5. Harvest on a dry sunny day, not when it is wet. If you do have to, because let’s face it some years all it does is rain then leave the seeds pods out to dry somewhere indoors for about a week.
6. Cut seed pods off the parent plant and place in a paper bag. Do not use plastic bags as seeds will sweat and rot. They need time to breathe and dry out fully for winter storage.
7. Store seeds in paper bags or envelopes at around 5 C. Keep dry during the winter and do not allow then to freeze or get too hot . So a garage which freezes or a greenhouse which overheats is not ideal.
8. Ensure you label your seeds as you collect them. I write the names on the paper bag before the seeds go in, this way I don’t forget! It’s impossible to tell the difference between white sweet peas and purple ones once to have stripped then off the plants !!
9. If your seeds are prone to popping out of the shells when you are not looking then some can be collected as full stems and placed in water to ripen. I do this with Borage and stinking Hellebore.
10. For others you can place the paper bag over the top of the seeds pods and tie with string so that when they pop they go into the bag – I will be doing this with my Lathyrus next year !!
For more gardening tips check out some of my other blogs: