ON THE COVER Susie’s Garden
Our thrifty expert loves harvesting seeds – here are her tips on the best ways to collect from different flower species
For the last few weeks I have been saving seed, something I find immensely satisfying. Holding a palmful of seeds from a favourite variety, I’m aware of the potential for all those new plants.
I hate seeing anything going to waste, but there are lots of ways you can maximise what your garden produces. You can use seed to create new plants for yourself or for a charity stall or take part in a seed swap; there’s an occasional one at our local market, and details on how to set one up are on the Eden Project website.
You need to collect seed when it’s dry, so avoid dewy mornings or it may go mouldy. Always store it in paper bags or old envelopes, never in plastic which would hold in any residual moisture. And don’t forget to label and date it. With some plants it’s easy to shake the dry seeds out of the old flower head: for example, aquilegia, poppies, tulips, dianthus or lupins.
With others you can cut the whole spike and lay it out on a greenhouse bench, airy windowsill or in an airing cupboard before extracting them.
For very long seedheads such as foxgloves, lay a double sheet of newspaper in a wheelbarrow, shake the heads into that and then use the fold to guide the seeds into a paper bag. You may need to sort them from the chaff, the material that enclosed it, which can harbour moulds or pests.
Put everything in an open box and gently blow across to push the fine rubbish away while leaving the heavier seeds behind.
Many grasses produce seed in abundance. As well as collecting their seed, I look out for seedlings in my garden of pampas grass, or smaller varieties such as Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) or pheasant’s tail grass (Amanthele lessoiana) which I can then pot up.
Alternatively, I gather their delicate flower heads just before they are fully ripe and ripen them in paper bags indoors before sowing in spring.
So, save money and get a thrill from producing new plants from the tiniest of beginnings.
A lifelong and passionate gardener, Susie White has a free flowing planting style which owes much to herbs, wildflowers, childhood plants and unusual perennials.