Be Kind, Rewind – collect your own seeds for flowers next year
As the summer draws to a close and the majority of our flowering plants withdraw for another year, we are already thinking about what will bring us colour next year, and, as it happens, one of the job’s best performed around the August/September period is that of seed collection so we can increase our stock of plants for the following season.
We will provide a short list of easy candidates for seed collection at the end of this blog, but for now let’s talk about successful seed harvest and storage.
The first task is to identify when a seed head or pod is ripe for picking, since immature seeds often fail to germinate or even survive the initial storage process. There are several methods of identification, but the most simple and popular is to judge based on colour. While they are maturing, the seed heads will usually be greenish, since they are still housing chlorophyll to nourish the seeds, but once this process is complete the seed pod will take on a brown, black or red tone as it begins to dry and prepare for dispersal.
Once you have found an adequate number of seed heads, you’ll want to wait until you have a day or two of dry weather before collecting them since this will help prevent the risk of fungus or rot ruining them in storage.
Of course not all seed types are made equal and this should be kept in minding when preparing to harvest them. Nuts and fruits, for example, require extra attention to ensure that they are not pilfered by birds and rodents before you get the chance, it is also best to only harvest when they fall naturally from the branch, however, this can be encouraged by some gentle shaking of the limbs (the trees limbs, not yours J).
The majority of seed heads can be prepared by leaving them to dry either on a greenhouse bench or a windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight. After a few days, gently crush the seed heads and remove any remaining chaff from the seeds as this can harbour mould and pests. When processing fruit seeds it is important to thoroughly remove any pulp by way of a sieve to guard against bacteria, fungus and rot.
The majority of seeds are best stored when they are wrapped in paper and sealed in an airtight container alongside a dessicate that will draw out any remaining moisture – silica crystals perform this task excellently, but quite often a simple sealed paper envelope and keeping it in a dry place will do the trick.
Here’s a list of our favourite plants to collect seeds from as they’re just so easy: