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How to collect flower seeds from your garden

So I’ve been out in the garden with a jam jar this week. And it wasn’t for catching slugs. I’ve been out collecting seeds from the flowers that have passed.

As gardeners, we spend a small fortune on seeds and plants for the garden, we always will but a lot of the time, we are rebuying the same plants over and over, when in fact we could just be saving the seeds from the ones we already have. It might just save you a few pennies.

So this week I’ve been out collecting seeds from the Mims (or Mimulus or Monkeyflowers), Petunias, Violas and Crocosmia.

The Mims were one of the first bedding plants we introduced and they add the most amazing splash of colour. Even better, they self-seed like crazy so you end up with loads of them, everywhere.

Why then you might be asking am I bothering to collect seeds? That is a very good question… because when plants self-seed, it’s not always easy to tell the flowers from the weeds, because you didn’t plant them so they are a bit unexpected. This way I get to control where they grow, so less risk of them being weeded out of the garden.

How to collect seeds

Collecting seeds is actually pretty easy. Two things you need:

  • a dry day (because you want the seed heads to be dry to make it easier to get the seeds
  • a vessel for collecting them, a jam jar or an envelope
  • you will still need an envelope for storing the seeds

Ok, so that was three things.

Basically, the little dry papery seed heads which appear after flowers have passed is where all those lovely, but very tiny, seeds are stored.

To collect them, I simply put the seed heads into the jar and tap them. This lets the seeds fall out into the jar to be saved.

Not all flowers work this way though… Viola for instance.

Viola seed heads pop open and the seeds fall out, however, the seeds don’t fall out straight away so you get a bit of time to go around and find seed heads which are still full of seeds – hurrah!!

With these, you can simply scrape the seeds off into your jar (or envelope).

Petunias are like Violas, their tiny little seed heads pop open and let the seeds out so you have to watch for this.

and… the seeds are soooo tiny and easy to lose. So be careful collecting them.

Some seed heads though are a wee bit trickier again. Some are pods, like the Crocosmia.

The Crocosmia seeds are encased in the long seed pods of the plant, I find it easier to take this whole pod off the plant and then go and “encourage” the seeds out in a nice safe space like a table or bench in the greenhouse. This way you are less likely to lose some to unexpected places.

These seeds are quite a bit bigger though, so easier to spot.

How to store the seeds until planting

This is where your envelope comes in. You don’t want to store the seeds in the jam jar, as you want any moisture to be able to evaporate, making it less likely that you’ll get mould etc on the seeds, so I always store them in an envelope. It doesn’t have to be a fancy envelope, just what you have around.

Remember to write the name of the seeds on the envelope though, and I usually write a note of when to plant them too.

There you go, really easy huh?

Some hints

A few hints though.

  • you need to wait until the seeds are ripe before harvesting or they may not be viable. Usually, this is when they are brown or black, so avoid green or “fresh” looking seeds
  • F1 or hybrids: be warned that hybrid may not produce exactly the same flower as the original because that one has been bred using two specific plants. Only heirloom (or open pollinated) varieties will reliably produce the same flowers again and again.

We have seen this change in flowers with our Mims, when we bout them, they all had a spotty pattern which was awesome.

But over the last few years as they have been cross-pollinated with each other they have mostly become solid colours, and even then the colours seem to randomly change each year. I like this, I think it’s fun that I never know what I’m going to get but if you have a strict colour pallet in your garden you may want to be aware of this.

So there you go, save a few pennies and get out and collect some seeds… I’m just watching and waiting for the sunflowers to be ready to go collect some seeds from my beasties.

Someone … might even have got a name check in this week’s video… cough, ahem…. Annie!

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