Collecting seed heads
As autumn approaches, many gardeners turn their focus to collecting seed heads. Seed collection is a common practice among gardeners to extend the life of their favourite plants. This is a rewarding and cost-effective way to replenish your garden, allowing you to create a sustainable space that is self-sufficient, requiring less work and resources in the long term. Although it sounds straightforward, there are some key tips and tricks to remember when collecting your seed heads, in order to get the best out of them for your garden.
There are many benefits to collecting seeds - it allows gardeners to bring back their favourite plants year after year, without having to purchase new seeds or starters. Collecting seed heads is an effective way to preserve and propagate plant genetics. Not only can you create a new batch of plants identical to the parent plant, but collecting seeds also ensures that the plant species survives. This is a rewarding exercise that benefits both the gardener in their pursuit to create a sustainable garden, and the local plants to ensure the growth of a new generation.
Knowing when to collect seed heads is crucial because it has a direct impact on the success of the next growing season. In general, seeds are ready for harvest when the seed heads have fully matured and changed colour. It’s vital to pay close attention to your seeds, as harvesting too early or too late could have negative consequences. Seeds that are collected too early could result in them being immature, which will lead to poor germination rates. Waiting too long, on the other hand, could result in the seeds shattering, which would mean a loss of seeds, and therefore a loss of growing potential in the following seasons. It is best to catch the seed heads just before the seeds have dropped naturally; this will occur after flowering when the plants start to brown and turn into seed pods.
A dry, still day is the best time to collect up your seed heads, as they will need to be stored dry, and fighting against the wind will make this exercise challenging! You can create your own little seed packets out of paper or purchase them elsewhere. Most seeds will tip into your packet with a gentle tap of the seed heads. The more delicate heads, however, might need to be collected into the bag as a whole, and left to naturally drop its seeds within. It's important to correctly document and label your seed packets as you go, to ensure you know which seeds are in which packet. Writing down the date and location too can help you track the progress of your plants.
Storing seeds correctly after harvesting is crucial to preserving their viability. Seeds are alive and will seek growth in the right environment, so it’s vital to follow these steps to ensure they stay ready for longer. The first step is to ensure that the seeds are fully dry before storing, as any remaining moisture could lead to mould and rot. Once dry, place your labelled seed packets into an airtight container, such as a glass jar or plastic bag. Make sure to store the containers in a cool, dry, and dark place in order to extend the shelf life of your precious seeds. A good place for this would be at the back of a cupboard.