The golden days of Autumn are now here and as the growing season ends, it is the perfect time to collect seeds ready to plant next year. If you have never tried collecting your own seeds, now is the time to give it a go. Collecting your own seeds is satisfying and saves you money too. Some gardeners feel that it is an advantage to have seeds from the plants that do well in their garden as over time, the plants may well have adjusted to local growing conditions so the seeds will be stronger and thrive better..
Seeds are stored by different plants and trees in different ways including berries, capsules, cones and pods. The seeds are usually ready for collecting about two months after the plant has finished flowering. Collect the seeds carefully and only gather them from strong, healthy plants. With a few exceptions (such as hellabore), most seeds cannot be planted straight away as they need time to mature.
There are two types of seed that can be collection. Dry seeds from flowers, shrubs and trees and wet seeds that are collected from over ripe fruit.
Here are some 10 tips for successful dry seed collection:
1. The best time of day to collect dry seeds is first thing in the morning on a dry day. If there has been a rainy spell, leave it a couple of days to ensure the seeds are dry.
2. Don’t be tempted to collect the seeds until they have ripened. Immature seeds will not germinate. Having said that, a few seeds are best gathered when they are green and immature and these include anemone and calendula.
3.The sign that seed pods are mature is that they will have changed from green to brown, red or black in colour. If the pods have not opened on their own, gently squeeze them to release their seeds.
4. If you are collecting seeds from a seed head, cut the seed head off its stalk using a sharp knife. Carefully place the seed heads on a tray and place the tray on a sunny windowsill to dry.
5. Some types of seed head do explode to disperse their seeds, so it is a good idea to check them each day. Alternatively you can store the seed heads in a paper bag in case they explode or shake them over a tray to release all the seeds.
6. If the seeds you have collected have chaff on them, clean this gently off them as this can cause the seeds to rot.
7. If you enjoy growing vegetables, it is easy to collect seeds from many different vegetables including broad beans, runner beans, squashes and tomatoes.
8. Before you pack the seeds away, make sure that they are in perfect condition.
9. Once you have gathered and checked each type of seed, put them in individual envelopes, clearly marked with their name and the date you collected them.
10. The envelopes must be carefully stored in a sealed container with some silica gel for absorbing any moisture. Place the container in a cool, dry place as the seeds will last longer. The ideal temperature for storing seeds is 5- 6ºC. Some seeds, such as walnut, oak and magnolia need to be stored in a damp environment such as in a plastic bag with damp sand.
…and 5 tips for successful wet seed collection:
1. If you are collecting the seeds from aubergine (eggplant), peppers, courgette (zucchini), pumpkin and squash, simply remove the seeds, rinse them in water and then spread them out on kitchen paper or newspaper to dry.
2. Some wet seeds benefit from fermenting first. These include tomatoes and cucumbers. To ferment the seeds, place them and their pulp in a bowl, add enough water to cover. Cover the bowl with kitchen film and leave for 3- 4 days.
3. After this time, the seeds will look mouldy. Pour off the water, rinse the seeds in clean water and then spread on kitchen paper to dry for 7-10 days.
4. Once the wet seeds have been completely dried, they can be stored.
5. Wet seeds should be stored in clearly marked envelopes that are placed in an airtight container with some silica gel to remove all moisture. Keep the seeds in a similar cool dry place to the other seeds you have collected.
Swapping seeds with your friends is definitely a good way to increase your collection, but there are also seed swapping groups . ‘Seedy Sunday’ is the largest and longest running group that runs events all over the UK- https://seedysunday.org/
The Next Door app is another fun way to meet like-,minded people for seed and plant swapping and even borrowing garden tools! https://nextdoor.co.uk/login/
If you would like some further guidance about collecting seeds, take a look at these websites –