It’s really tempting to do a thorough job of tidying up the garden each autumn. But wait… what about the seeds?
There’s no doubt that a vigorous chop with the shears to remove old stems is the quickest way to improve the look of your borders. I try to resist tidying up too soon because I know that many tiny creatures rely on the decaying plants for their food and shelter over the winter. Usually I’m glad that I waited. Ladybirds and other tiny insects find crevices to hide in. You’d be surprised how they can wedge themselves into a small seedhead and they are fascinating to watch. Aside from helping wildlife there’s another bonus… I usually find some nice ripe seedpods! I leave most for the visiting birds, small mammals and hibernating insects and I always collect a few, some for sowing in autumn and a few more to save for a spring sowing.
The seeds you collect may not produce plants exactly like their parent but for me that adds to the fun. Identical plants or clones are produced by taking cuttings and I usually do that too. Many seeds collected in autumn can be sown straight away… hardy annuals and perennials will survive a few degrees of frost over winter. I usually hedge my bets and sow half the seeds in autumn and save the others to sow in spring.
How to collect seeds.
- Collect your seed heads on a dry day. The seeds are ripe when the seed pod swells and changes colour…usually turning from green to pale brown. Some seeds rattle in the pod.
- Cut the flowering stem and transfer carefully to a large paper bag or open box or bowl and take them indoors into a dry place such as a sunny windowsill or your airing cupboard to make sure they are thoroughly dry.
- Tip the seeds out onto a large clean sheet of white paper and carefully remove the seed pod and any chaff – debris such as tiny insects and decaying plant material.
- Transfer the cleaned seeds into a paper envelope, label and store in a cool dry place until you are ready to sow next spring.
- Seeds are viable for years if you store them in an airtight container with a little packet of silica gel in a fridge at 5C
I have quite a collection of seeds from my own garden this year. Gardening friends always appreciate a few more plants. So I’m making some pretty paper seed packets to store the seeds safely. They make a lovely little gift. If you’d like to have a go here’s how…
How to make paper seed packets.
- You’ll need some nice paper, a tiny piece of double sided tape and some split pins or stickers to seal.
- Choose your favourite wrapping paper, wallpaper or printer paper and cut a 15cm or 20cm square.
- Fold in half to make a triangle.
- Fold the right corner in to middle of the left edge
- Fold the left corner in to the middle of the right edge
- Open the packet by folding down the top of the triangle and secure in place with a small piece of double sided sticky tape.
- Add the seeds you have saved and fold the remaining flap down. Seal with tape or a split pin and finally add a label with the name of the plant and the date you collected the seeds.