Many of us start the growing season with a ‘Spring’ in our step and high hopes for beautiful blooms and a bountiful harvest ahead.
What many don’t realise is that at least some of what they splash out on seeds whilst browsing the catalogues through the winter months can be easily collected and saved from last year’s crops. And it’s not just a rewarding activity, it really can save ££’s, and help provide stunning returns the following year- as well as help sustain heritage varieties and local ecosystems…
Traditional horticultural wisdom often states that many, or even most, seeds saved from your own garden either don’t ‘breed true to type’ – i.e. you put heart and soul into nurturing plants through the summer only to be disappointed with your results, or that the only thing your own seeds multiplies is pest and diseases. However, there are lots of plants that can give spectacular returns with just a little investment of time, and it’s not too late to nip out into the garden this autumn and gather the seeds of future success.
Top of our list is sunflowers – just one head can provide literally hundreds of seeds and most will be identical to the parent plant. Native annual wildflower species such as poppies, cornflowers and corn marigolds can give even more spectacular returns. But the list actually goes on and on: beans and peas are oh-so-easy – simply use the last of the crop that have ‘gone over’ and are no good for eating; both pot marigolds (Calendula) and French or African marigolds (Tagetes) produce thousands of their unusual hairy seeds. Even many tomatoes and peppers will give a good and similar crop from saved seeds, giving incredible savings on ‘F1’ cultivars, where there are often only 6 or 8 seeds per shop-bought pack.
Try to choose as dry day if possible, and then get busy. Usually seed pods that are just browning off will have more mature and therefore viable seeds. Either carefully cut the seed heads or fruit off, or in the case of multi-headed plants such as poppies, simply shake over a large surface such as sheet or plastic potting tray, or for larger heads or fruit split open and separate out the seeds, removing as much debris as possible. Then leave in an open, flat container in an indoor airy place to dry out for a few days. Once thoroughly dry put into envelopes or plastic containers, label up – and look forward to a bonanza next year!
There are a few plant groups to avoid, such as pumpkins and squashes which can taste really bitter from saved seeds, and groups like parsnips and carrots which simply don’t stay viable very long so are best shop- bought, but there are loads of websites to help you out if unsure. We LOVE this company – https://www.realseeds.co.uk/whyseedsave.htmla – a wealth of information and an amazing range of seeds on offer you buy just once and then can save-your-own for free, for ever more!
Good for your pocket, good for the Planet… S.O.S.