Carrots seed far and wide
What a goldmine a flowering carrot is. Apart from the tall, elegant visual display of its umbelliferous flowers, it produces a heap of seed.
Many flying insects appreciate the flowers, some of them beneficial – many useful for pollination around the garden – and it all comes from one tiny seed.
Carrot seeds on the plant, unlike in the packet, are covered with a set of firm hairs, ready to catch a ride on any animal or woolly jersey that brushes past. They can spread themselves far and wide or merely drop below the plant and continue from there. For a cheap way to collect your own seed, a few carrots left to go to seed provide an abundance.
Parsnips are the same, as are so many vegetables, so if you let the best of them reproduce in this way, you can supply much of your seed needs. Larger vegetables such as sweet corn and pumpkins may need to be grown in large amounts and away from other varieties to maintain their type qualities.
But a lettuce or two, gone-toseed broccoli or cabbage will give a wayward swathe of yellow or white flowers which again, attract useful insects and will in time provide you with plenty of seeds.
Herbs such as parsley, coriander and chives are easy to grow for their flowers and seeds. Coriander is one of those plants that provides each step of the way; first leaves for salads then seed for stir-fries and curries. Chives provide leaves and flowers for salads, and any that are not used will set seed, and are worth saving for planting in spring.
When collecting seeds from your garden, take paper bags, scissors and a pen with you.
Some can be collected straight away when they have clearly dried on the plant and gone brown. For others though, you may have to be crafty to stop the birds eating the lot. Sunflowers are an example of this, where you are best to collect the drooping and heavy head of seed and hang it in a dry and airy place. Position the head into a bag and tie firmly around the stem so that mice and birds can’t easily get into it and wait for it to dry enough that any seeds that fall out are caught in the bag.
You can do this in the garden too, while any seed head is still attached to the plant. A plastic bag tied around the head will ensure seeds eventually fall into your hands rather than dropping on the ground. Just check how they’re looking from time to time, especially after rain. Tall stalks of broccoli once browned off and full of seed pods can be cut and stored in a dry dark place. It’s fun for gardeners to later package up and label seed packets for gifts.
Carrots can be sown through summer until about the end of March, when the soil temperatures start lowering and growth will be slow through winter. So there is still time to grow your own blowsy blooms and collect thousands of seeds.
You won’t want to let all those good eating carrots go to seed though, so successively sow every two or three weeks and keep watered through dry times.
If you’ve grown peas, lettuce or spinach and these crops have finished, then carrots are good to follow with. Leeks are good neighbours with carrots, as are onions and the herbs rosemary and sage. They mature in 60 to 80 days for eating, with the harvesting of seeds much later.
Seed mines: The abundant inflorescence of the humble carrot.