Seed collecting is an easy way to save money on planting next years garden. They're easy to collect from many annuals, however, it is usually only a good idea to save annuals and biennials from plants that are true to type as plants from cultivars and F1 hybrids will not produce the same plants as their parenting plants.
Before you decide to collect seeds you should make sure that the parent plant has been healthy and produced good blooms or fruits as you will want quality flowers in the next year.
Types of Seedhead
- Capsules (Poppies, Eucalypts etc)
- Berries (Holly, Strawberries etc)
- Catkins (Birch etc)
- Cones (Pine etc)
- Nuts (Hazel etc)
- Pods (Sweet peas etc)
- Exploding Seedheads (Euphorbia lathyrism)
- Winged Seeds (Acers etc)
When seed pods start brown in colour and begin to split, it is time to cut them off and collect the seeds. You will want to spread them out on a paper towel or cloth in a tray and place them in a warm, sunny place where they can dry out. Make sure you have cleaned off all the surrounding material as this can cause seeds to rot or dampen off. Once pods and capsules are dry, crush carefully to collect the seeds from inside. But be sure not to damage the seeds in the process.
You can collect seeds from fresh fruits by mashing them in a fine sieve and rinsing away the pulp in cold water. You will need to leaves these to dry for a couple days.
With exploding seed heads it is more difficult to collect, but you can find ways to do so. A good idea is to put bags over the seed heads and shake the pods, this will make the ripe seed heads burst. You may have to try this over a couple of days. You can also carefully cut the heads from the stems and put them in a brown paper bag and shake them up. This will release the seeds. Be sure to label the bags so you don't mix seeds up!
Storing Your Seeds
Some seeds are only viable for a short period of time and should be sown as soon as possible, however, plenty of seeds are best delayed and sown at a more suitable time of year (autumn and spring). You need to keep these at low temperatures.
Make sure to label all your seeds are it can be easy to forget what you have picked, especially if you have multiple plants. You need to place the seeds in airtight containers so that moisture can't get into them. It is ideal to add some calcium chloride or silica gel into the containers to remove any moisture preventing
Store these seeds in a refrigerator at 5°C until you want to plant them. Many seeds will keep for years!
This is when you weaken or open the coat of a seed to help encourage germination, usually done before sowing.
This is used on hard coated seeds. You need to place the seeds in a moist environment (inside a sealed bag, with a small amount of moist tissue etc.). Store them in this way for 4-12 weeks at a temperature of 20-30°C. This is then usually followed by cold stratification. This is done to help break dormancy, essentially mimicking the ideal seasonal conditions for germination to take place.
Soak your seeds for a period of up to 24 hours and then add them to moist vermiculite in a plastic bag. Then refrigerate the seeds for 4-12 weeks at a temperature between 1-5°C. This is to help break dormancy and encourage germination.
Have fun saving up all your seeds and don't be scared to experiment!!
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