Sunday, 8 August 2010

Saving seeds ... ...

Since getting into gardening we have extended the plants we grow, this has in turn led to more expense from seed buying, so last year we decided that we would make an effort to cultivate our own seed, now I have to be honest I have a pretty organic approach to gardening, by organic I mean I don't go out of the way to create neat rows of carrots or what ever, and if I need to plant something it's a case of where can I find the space for it, I like to think I mimic nature in that I don't try and control where the plants go too much, I'm quite happy for a plant to grow where the seed falls so to speak, it's more fun that way.

So when it came to actually  seed saving I wasn't sure what to do, and although I have books and there's the internet I don't really spend time reading up on things like this (yes I probably should) that's when I started thinking about nature and how plants sow their seeds when it's time.

No one goes round picking seed pods and chucking them about, the plants do that themselves, so with that in mind I started to leave plants in the ground to see what would happen, now this isn't going to look that good, no one really wants a garden full of half dead plants lying about, but in some cases it may be the best way.

Here's an example, we grow peas (as do lots of people) and we have in the past bought peas from garden centres, and more recently we have got the majority of our seeds from pound shops to cut down on the cost, and to be honest whilst expensive seeds may have a higher success rate I haven't noticed the difference, a packet of peas that cost £2.99 grows no better or worse than the packets of peas we got for £1.00, and in getting the pound shop seeds we have saved a fair bit, but we thought we could save more.

We left some pods on our pea plants, and after a while the plants started to wither and go brown, and the pea pods did as well, until we were left with shrivelled pea pods all over the place, then we just picked them off.

This is what we were left with -

These are the ones that got saved from the kids.

The pods open easily and the peas are already quite dry, and ready for planting next year, we got about 50 peas from the pods in the picture, this may not be enough for some people, but we have a load of peas left from bought packets so we are going to use them up as well.

You can save the seeds from other plants as well, bean type plants (runner bean,broad bean) can all be treated the same way, just leave the pods on the plants until they start to dry out, if you pick them while they are still green they will most likely go mouldy and rot, so just leave them.

Other plants require a little more work, for example do you grow poppies ? we do we grow a couple of different types, but collecting the seed is the same pretty much. When the flower starts to die the petals drop off and you're left with a seed head that slowly dries out and as it does small holes appear at the top of the pod, this is where the seeds will come out, as the plant blows about in the wind the seeds are dispersed all over the place, collecting the seed is easy, just get your pruners or some scissors and a bag.
 I use freezer bags, but paper bags are better as moisture is less likely to build up which means the seeds shouldn't go mouldy, then all you need to do is cut the pods off, try and be careful and not move the pods about too much, the more movement the more likely the seeds will fall out, and be careful when you put the pods into the bags.

I am always surprised at how many poppy seeds you get from just a few plants - 

Poppy seeds, and lot's of them.

Sowing any seeds is easy, just do it in spring like you would any plant seeds, or when the weather is warm enough to grow stuff, we have collected loads of poppy seeds, and we also have Sweet William,Nigella (love in a mist) along with viola seeds, and other things, as it happens poppy seeds and Nigella seeds can be used in cooking, so you could save some for planting and some for eating.

There are loads of other plants that you might be growing that you could take seed from, and keep growing them year after year for no cost at all, well apart from the time taken to grow the seedling s and plant them out.

Here's a couple of links to Gardeners worlds website, both links are for taking seed from plants, the second specifically deals with tomatoes (links open in new windows)

You can also save the seeds from shop bought items, for example passion fruits,physalis and anything else you can find, some may grow but not survive the weather here, some may not grow, but a pot or two isn't going to take up a lot of room on a windowsill or a greenhouse shelf, and you can get the kids growing them as well, maybe make a project of it ?

Thanks for reading.

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