Kate Hardy

Collect and store seeds from your garden

Kate Hardy

Harvest seeds from your own garden plants and you'll be rewarded with fabulous blooms again next year!

Nigella Hispanica seeds

Nigella Hispanica seeds

There are always those gardeners who complain about August being a disappointing month in the garden, as many flowers go over and some plants droop and look a little weary from a long season in the sun. I always disagree with them – August is a superb month, full of late summer character, glorious seas of daisy blooms that seem to last and last, and splendid grasses and seed heads in russet hues. 

Plants that have gone to seed needn’t be a bad thing. It means new life for new plants, and the perfect opportunity for us to get out and start collecting our own seed, for free, that we can store and sow at the right time. Many plants will pop and spread their own seed, but to exercise a little control, we can collect it before they take over, making sure we decide by ourselves where our plants grow!

It’s really easy to do, but you just have to know when the right time is to collect from plants. Usually the end of flowering will be long gone – two months or so – and noticeable seed pods have crisped up and look like they’re about to burst. However, some – such as calendula and ranunculus – have seed that can be harvested when it’s still slightly green. 

In the main, wait for crispy brown pods so the seed inside is mature enough to germinate when the time comes.

Easy-to-collect seed are those in recognisable capsules such as poppies, aquilegia, nigella, foxgloves, and the attractive discs of honesty. Collect them on a dry day, from a plant you know was healthy. Shake the seed head into a paper bag – some will open and release seed readily at this point – but if it’s stubborn, crush the head and separate the seed. Label the bags and keep them dry until they’re needed.

Dried seed heads on gone-over plants can be dealt with in three ways – pick some for seed saving and storage, keep some for a beautiful late-season vase display and leave the seed pods you don’t pick for an attractive autumn and winter border display that will also provide insects such as lacewings and ladybirds a place to overwinter in. 

3 of the best... Autumn gardens to visit

1 Beth Chatto, Essex

Beth Chatto garden, Essex.jpg

A plantswoman’s masterclass in late-summer perennials and drought-tolerant planting. (Call 01206 822007)

2 Bodnant (NT), Wales

Formal and water gardens, with natural, informal areas. Glorious blue hydrangeas. (Call 01492 650460)

3 Trentham, Staffs

Borders combine ornamental grasses with colour from salvias, echinaceas and phlox. (Call 01782 646646)

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