For me, the most difficult part of collecting seed is holding off long enough for the seed to ripen on the plant.
- Sometimes I just want to tidy up the garden, so I’ll take the flower stalk while the camas heads are still green. I tuck them into a paper bag & leave them in a warm dry place to ripen. Apparently the early collection leads to lower germination rates, but better that than nothing at all…
- Other times I’ll harvest Lupin seed a bit early just to make sure I get some. If I wait just a touch too long, it’s suddenly ready, pops open & is gone-gone-gone.
Again, better a bit early than nothing at all.
With the lupin, I make sure there is lots of room in the paper bag for air circulation. It’s no good if crowded pods go moldy.
- The snapdragon holds its seeds in little rattles. When they’re mature little holes open near the top of the capsule & the seeds can escape when shaken. Because there’s less ‘spillage’ I’m more comfortable waiting for the seeds to ripen on the plant. I cut, upend the stalk the paper bag, then give it a good shake to collect the seed.
- With some other flowers, like calendula, the individual seeds set on the flower. I wait until the seed head is brown to collect . Even still, I use a paper grocery bag to collect the seed heads. After a good shake most seeds dislodge & all that’s left is separating the seed from the chaff.
- Shasta Daisy is similar, but has a copious amount of seed in comparison. Once ripened, seed drops with the slightest shift, self-sowing all around. KC once told me to NEVER-EVER-EVER let shasta self seed or else I’d NEVER-EVER-EVER be done with weeding them out of the garden. I take her advice to heart & deadhead early.
Rather than collecting seed at all, I figure I can divide the healthy clumps I already have whenever there’s a need some in another location.
- Some plant’s flowers turn to fluff when they go to seed. In the case of clematis montana, it’s so decorative that I can’t bear to cut off the seed heads.
Golden Rod seed head isn’t quite as pretty, but because it is native to this area, it’s a fabulous food for the local birds. So I’m a little torn about collecting the seed. The plant divides fairly well, so that’s what I do when I want more clumps around the yard.
- Some plants produce berries hoping birds & animals will eat them and spread the seed around in their droppings. Oregon grape is a good example. I’ve found that trying to transplant this shrub hasn’t worked well… but there are a few oregon grape babies in the garden, so collecting the seed is worth a try.
Gather some berries, mash them & rinse the pulp from the seeds with cold water in a fine sieve. After that, it’s super important to thoroughly dry the seeds. Spreading them out on paper towel helps to stop them from clumping together & molding.
- And then there’s the nuts. Those are best collected when they fall off the trees. So many garry oak acorns drop in the early autumn before the leafs fall, that it’s easy-peasy to collect them.
I prefer to plant them into litre pots right away as the seedling will start quickly. They really don’t like the fragile tap root being disturbed in transplanting so I skip the smaller pot sizes altogether.
After that, the trick is leaving the pot outside to get the natural temperature & rain… but still protecting it from those hard-working squirrels.
Yup. I guess I’m not the only one bent on gathering seeds.
Does your harvesting spirit spark at this time of year too? What are your collection tips & techniques?