Seeds: Get Saving

Triptych of image showing seed pods of lupins, poppies and nigella.

Foxlgoves (Digitalis), lupins (Lupinus), honesty (Lunara annua), sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis), poppies (Papaver) – all of these will be forming seed heads right now and if you have them in your garden or plot, it’s well worth saving and drying them to plant for another year. Over the next few weeks, these will be joined by sweet peas, sunflowers, Cosmos, Antirrhinum, Astrantia and countless more…

There’s nothing new about seed saving but as we pore over seed catalogues and websites, lured by delightful descriptions of blooms to come, we shouldn’t forget the wealth of free and easy to obtain seeds that are on offer in our gardens and through community and neighbourly seed swap arrangements.

One thing to remember when you’re saving seeds is that the plants we grow from them are unlikely to be exactly the same as the parent plant (if you want this, you’ll need to take cuttings) but if a bountiful display rather than a curated collection is what you have in mind then this won’t be a problem. Plus, you can always supplement your collection with bought-in seeds – and let’s be honest, we all enjoy a bit of a seed shopping treat.

You can of course collect your seeds on an ad-hoc basis (hands-up if you’ve ever reached over a garden wall for some seed pickings) but if you’re going to take it more seriously then you need to get organised. Invest in some large paper envelopes for the initial collection as you’ll be cutting spires and stems to take back to your work bench.  Once you’ve sorted and dried your seeds, you’ll also need some smaller paper envelopes (‘wage envelopes’ – those small brown envelopes used to pay cash are ideal and widely available from stationers). Sticky labels and biros for writing on them will also be needed and some sealable plastic/tupperware storage containers for keeping your seeds in the fridge if you’re not going to sow them immediately.

In general, stalks and seed pods should have browned and feel crispy before you harvest. If you’re able to leave them on the stalk until this stage, you’ll be giving the plant the maximum chance to ready the seed for dispersal as it would naturally.  Seeds vary in size and quantity but many such as Antirrhinum and Digitalis will contain thousands, if not millions, of seeds on one flower spike, so unless you’re planning on planting a forest, you should only need one stalk of each of these.

Look out for Roz’s podcast on seed saving which will be released soon and we’ll be giving updates on the Field Gate seed saving programme in future newsletters and on social media, so keep watching and listening and do let us know via our socials -or in the comments below- how you get on!

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