...And before you know it another year has begun and it is time for saving seeds again!
Harvesting of seeds
In most cases collecting seeds from flowers, can be as simple as going out to the garden, handpicking a few mature seedpods, and bringing them into the house for further drying and cleaning. You can harvest plants and hang them up to dry some more if you need to to let the seed ripen further. Fore very small seeds I often pop the plant material into a paper bag and give it a good shake to loosen the seed. Some seeds such as Sanguisorba tenufolia for example, are super easy and these can literally be rubbed between your hands to remove the seeds. The process of removing the seeds is known as threshing and by undertaking this process you are removing the seed from the plant.
Once you have done this, you will find with many of the plants from which you are gathering seed there is a lot of bits of plant matter in with the seeds - this is known as chaff. We often will do our seed harvesting on a day where there is a bit of a breeze as this will often whisk the little bits of chaff out from amongst the seed. We also use a sieve for very fine seeds and that way the chaff is left in the sieve and the tiny seeds fall to the bottom of the container that we are sieving them into.
Preserving Genetic Diversity
Many of the older style varieties of seeds that we collect here at Puriri Lane will never see the fame of a commercial seed catalog, so many of these unique plants only exist in the hands of people like you and I. Lend a hand and save some of those seeds that are in danger of disappearing! Once you have harvested them, share them around to keep them going after all that's what gardeners are renowned for ... sharing.
Connect with your Garden
What a great story to be able to tell when you are talking to children about seeds when you can say that these seeds came from Grandma of Grandpa's garden. Every seed holds a connection to the future and the past and seeds can connect us to our family, so why not get involved and give it a go.
Develop your Community spirit
Seed saving and the sharing of seeds go hand-in-hand. Share your seeds with your neighbours, your friends and why not investigate whether or not you have a community garden near by that might benefit from some free seeds. They might want mainly vegetable seeds but they also might want to start to grow a cutting garden where people could harvest a few flowers for their homes. Why not take someone under your wing who might be interested in gardening and share your knowledge with them on how to save seeds.
Seed Saving requires a little bit of planning
If you want to save seed from your garden, there are a few basic things that you need to know and a few tools that you will need to have to hand.
~ Seed Saving tools that we use here at Puriri Lane ~
Snips - You can find these here
Deadheaders for delicate work of splitting pods open or snipping of finer bits of dried plant material
Sieve - I have a small old sieve which is perfect for cleaning seeds prior to storage. Found in an old second hand shop but I think I might have found a supplier for old fashioned wooden sieves, so watch this space!
Storage Of Your Seeds
Seeds are happiest when they are stored in a cool, dark, and dry place and when they have been stored under the right conditions, some seeds will be fine for a year or more in some cases.
Once properly dried, it is also possible to store seeds in a sealed in airtight containers and they can kept in the refrigerator. We store our Sweet Pea seeds in the freezer, but the majority are kept in their seed saver packets in a cool dry space. Don’t forget to label your seeds with the variety name, and any useful notes about your seed source, that date that you harvested them and any other information that might be relevant to what you are growing.
We have some great little seed saver packets which you can find here
Help to save the Bees
The great news is that whilst you are waiting for your plants to provide you with some seeds they are still growing and flowering so are providing an invaluable food source for bees, butterflies, and other bugs.
Open pollinated varieties of flowers are a bit like breeds of animals, they will retain their distinct characteristics as long as they are mated with an individual of the same breed. This means, with a little care and planning, the seeds you produce will be true-to-type, keeping their distinct traits generation after generation as long as they do not cross-pollinate with other varieties of the same species.
Things like Aquilegias if you have different varieties close by will mean that the bumble bees and bees are hopping from one flower to another so in simple terms by the time they set seed you will get flowers with some new characteristics, so some "garden intervention" is required to produce seeds that are true-to-type, and to prevent unwanted cross pollination between different varieties of the same species by putting a lot of extra space between varieties. For some people gathering seed means more advanced methods can be used, including larger isolation distances, pollination barriers, or even hand pollination.
Cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen between plants. To save pure seed, you want to prevent cross-pollination between two different varieties in the same species. Planting just one variety in a species will help ensure you save pure seed.
Open-pollinated varieties, will produce seeds that are true to type and maintain the desired characteristics of their variety provided a seed saver takes care to prevent unwanted cross-pollination between cultivars.
Whether you decide to take on more complex varieties over time or to simply collect seeds from easy-to-manage varieties is a matter of personal choice
Annual :: Biennial :: Perennial
Not all plants flower, set seed, and die in a single growing season - these plants are known as Annuals.
Biennials, such as some varieties of Digitalis or Foxgloves as they are commonly known for example, only put on leaf growth in their first year and then flower, set seed and die the next.
Longer living plants known as perennials, grow flower and set seed but keep on growing for many years
Planning a garden from which to gather seed does not have to be overwhelming and can be done to both your ability and interest level. Just as a new gardener is told not to take on more than can be managed when planting a vegetable or flower garden, starting small and knowing just what species to begin with when growing a variety for seed will help ensure success. By growing familiar varieties, it is simpler to measure one’s success at collecting seed that is true to type when that seed is planted and grown the following year.
There are certainly some great books out there pitched at different levels of interest. We cater more to the home gardener and I am on the hunt for some books to help us all with this activity of saving seed as do love to read up on seed saving so keep an eye on our range of books.
Thanks for stopping by, we will be adding lots more information to our website this year... it's one of my New Year's Resolutions!