Collecting and saving seeds from your own garden plants can save you a fortune.
In this short video guide, Alan Titchmarsh explains how at the end of the summer many plants are producing seeds that can be collected and stored ready to be sown the following spring.
He demonstrates how to collect seed from garden plants such as aquilegia, honesty and phlomis and explains that you need paper bags and secateurs before running through the process of gathering, cutting and collecting seed heads.
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He then discusses drying the seed and preparing it for storage until sowing.
Alan finishes by explaining the importance of keeping your seeds in cool, dry and dark conditions to preserve their viability and maintain their ability to germinate.
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Watch now, for all you need to know about harvesting and storing seed from your garden.
Harvesting and storing seeds: transcript
You know, we’re all guilty of complaining about the price of plants in the nursery and garden centre, but they spent a lot of time growing them. Still, if it comes to the end of the week and you’ve not got much left, you do begrudge it, don’t you?
But, how many of us remember that we can collect seeds from our own garden and grow more plants for nothing? And it’s at this time of year, when seedheads on things like Phlomis russeliana, these lovely, great rosettes here are producing seeds, that we collect them. Go down and sweet talk your greengrocer, buy a bunch of bananas and ask him for a load of paper bags. Cut the seedheads, turn them upside down very carefully inside the bag so that those seeds are retained. And when you’ve done that, and you’ve got as many as you want from all kinds of different plants – aquilegias, phlomis, the whole kit and caboodle, anything that’s shedding seeds – keep them in this paper bag, take them into a cool, dry place like a potting shed, so that they can ripen and dry out.
After a couple of weeks, you’ll find that your seed pods have dried off beautifully and a lot of their content will have fallen down into the paper bag.
That’s honesty, this is Phlomis russelliana and the seeds come out of these crispy calyces here, we’ve got aquilegias – always great for providing seed. So when you know that those seedheads have dried out, put yourself some clean paper on the table and tap those heads to remove any more. You can see they’re falling out, just like little black pollen beetles these aquilegias are. And you’re trying to get as many seeds out as you can, but you will also find – here’s the magic bit – that’s the majority out of there. The vast majority are in the bottom of your paper bag with one seedhead. Now look at that – all of that would have been wasted had you not bothered to gather up the seeds. But each one of these seeds here is capable of becoming a new plant.
And with a lot of plants, of course, and particularly things like aquilegias, they will have cross-pollinated, cross-fertilised, which means that this progeny that arises from these seeds could be all kinds of different colours. Some won’t be that brilliant, but others will be well worth growing.
Take your piece of paper, make it into a little tube like that, and just pour those seeds right down into the packet. Lick it and turn it over and then write on them what they are: aquilegia mixed.
What you do with them then is quite critical, because if you left them in the scorching sun or you just put them in a drawer in the house or you let them get damp, the viability – their ability to germinate – would really fall away. So what you need to do is to keep them cool and dry and in the dark. And, by popping them in a Tupperware container like that, with a little packet of silica gel, which will absorb the moisture rather than letting it be absorbed by the seeds, seal them in there hermetically, pop it the bottom drawer, the salad drawer of the fridge, and you’ll find that, come the spring, they will germinate as readily as ever they would if they’d fallen in nature.