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Harvesting & storing seeds

                              September 2009


Harvesting and storing seed 

collecting seedsIt is very satisfying to harvest seeds from your own garden year after year. Apart from saving money by not purchasing commercially supplied seeds, it is a good way of collecting quality seed, producing masses of your favourite plants, and getting some unusual results from plants that have cross pollinated.

For example some years ago I was given some petunia seeds that were brought back from Tenerife, having been collected from a particularly vigorous strain. They were deep purple. Each year I have collected seed from the resulting plants, and eventually had a variety of colours ranging from almost white through to a deepish mauve. They were extraordinary plants, remarked upon by many visitors. Eventually I discarded them due to a weakening of the colours..

  • Before you start harvesting seeds from your garden, there are a few things to be aware of. If you plan on collecting seed from plants that you previously planted as "hybrid" seeds, the results will be inferior. In fact some hybrids are grown to flower profusely and not produce seed at all. Half the fun of collecting seeds is to see the unusual colours that result from cross pollination when plants such as petunias of varying colours are grown close to each other.
  • By studying the cultural needs of types of seeds you wish to collect, you are more likely to have success. For example, seeds of Astrantia and Hellebores need to overwinter in the ground before they will germinate, and you may need to mimic these conditions by putting seeds in the refrigerator for a period of time, to kick start them into growth. Personally with the two types I just mentioned, I find they self-seed profusely if left to their own devices..
  • If you want to harvest seeds from certain fruit and vegetables, let the fruit over-ripen on the plant, then harvest it and gently pull it apart to get the seed, which you will then need to soak in water for about two days. The seeds that have sunk to the bottom of the water are the ones to keep, so dry them thoroughly on a piece of kitchen paper. The seeds that rise to the top of the water can be discarded as they are either too dry or infertile.
  • pacino sunflower Flower seeds need to be collected during a dry spell. I find early evening is a good time when the morning dew has thoroughly dried and the plants have had the benefit of a day of sunshine. I usually collect the whole seed head of a plant, especially if the seeds are a little under ripe, allowing them to finish the ripening process in dry conditions. For several years now I have been growing the miniature sunflower "Pacino" which grows between 24ins and 48ins tall. Each year it produces perfect, strong plants, and I usually collect one of the biggest flower heads, overwintering it in the greenhouse. Who said sunflowers are for kids only?
  • Proper storage is the key to strong, healthy plants. Place your harvested seeds onto newspaper or in paper (not plastic) envelopes until they have thoroughly ripened. Then remove any husks or seed heads, with a sieve, leaving only the ripe seed, which can be returned to the paper envelopes. Make sure the envelopes are correctly labelled and dated, before putting them in an airtight container such as a biscuit tin, with a sachet of silica gel or some uncooked rice to absorb any moisture. Finally store the tin in a cool dry place.

Allow for failures - it is all part of the fun and satisfaction of experimenting, much the same as taking cuttings, which at the end of the day, cost nothing..






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Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



RHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the BBC Gardening website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new, and special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



The Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced £5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is £6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website


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