Collecting and Storing Seeds

Collecting and Storing Seeds

Collecting seeds from plants
Photo by Юлия Медведева on Unsplash

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Collecting and storing seeds from your garden is a good gardening practice. The advantages of doing it yourself are easy to see. Your garden will produce a new generation of plants for you, if you know what to do. These are seeds available for the taking. Every gardener loves free seeds.

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Sustainable and frugal

The life cycle of a plant starts and ends with a seed. Your plant will pay you in dividends for all of the love and care by providing you with an endless cycle of seeds.

The only thing you need to do as the gardener is collect them from the plant. That might be oversimplified as you need to not only collect the seeds but dry them properly and store them for future use.

Collecting and storing seeds is a frugal and sustainable garden practice that promotes zero waste. It’s easy once you learn what to look for and how to do it. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Collecting and storing seeds
Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

Identifying seeds on your plants

Identifying a seed pod is pretty obvious and easy. An even easier seed to identify is that on the head of a flower that when left to die turns into seed. The zinnia is a good example of that. The entire bloom dries up and leaves a compact bunch of seeds where the flower used to be.

Zinnia seed head on a spent flower.
Zinnia seed head on a spent flower.

Seeds sometimes are small and hard to miss on the plant and sometimes it’s very obvious. Research your plant and look for pictures of their seeds so that you will know what to look for when the times comes.

Plant seeds
Tiny plant seeds

Collecting seeds

To collect seeds, you can pick them directly off the flower as seen above. The zinnia head should be cleaned of the spent petals and any foliage. Then place your seeds in a paper bag. I leave my bag open in a dry area that won’t be disturbed.

Collecting and storing seeds desert rose
Desert rose seed pod

The desert rose plant pictured above puts out a pod once it’s been pollinated. This pod needs to ripen before it will release its seeds. In a case like this, once the pod appears to be about to burst, I will put a bag around it and fasten it to the plant.

This pod will open and the seeds will drift away in the wind if I miss it. Poppies are another plant that easily give seeds. My favorite gardener, Monty Don, taught me how to collect from the best poppy plants.

He recommends that as soon as the petals begin to droop and die, pull the entire plant up by the roots and hang it upside down. Put a plastic bag over the seed heads. Because the roots are attached the plant will continue to ripen the seeds and eventually they will fall into your bag.

Collecting and storing seeds from poppies
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Poppy seed heads

Echinacea is another easy plant to collect seeds from. Leave the bloom until it is brown and spent. Then cut the stem and store the head in a paper bag until it is dry.

Collecting and storing seeds from echinacea
Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash

Drying seeds

When in the garden, I find it easier to use a plastic zipper bag to initially collect my seeds, this is not the solution for drying them. A plastic zipper bag will trap moisture and can cause mold to develop and destroy your seeds.

The seeds need to breathe while they are drying out and a paper bag is ideal. Put your paper bags in a cool, dry place until they are thoroughly dried out.

Lemongrass seeds shoot up on a stalk
Lemongrass seeds shoot up on a stalk

Storing seeds

Once you have thoroughly dried your seeds it is time to catalog and store them. Small paper envelopes are ideal for this. This is how you buy seeds from the store.

I like to use things I have lying around in the recycle bin. Old envelopes that can be cut to size. The brown paper that comes with Amazon packages is great for this. Old newspaper is another great and zero waste option.

After your seeds are stored in their paper parcels, label them with the month and year collected and what type of seeds they are.

At this point, you could store them in a plastic container or mason jar. I like to put a packet of silica in with my seeds to absorb moisture during storage.

Collecting and storing seeds
Photo by Eco Warrior Princess on Unsplash

Those little silica packets come inside new shoes, purses, etc. We have all thrown them out at some point. Save these, they are helpful to keep the humidity down in your storage container.

If you don’t have silica, it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure you’ve dried your seeds out completely before shutting them in. Store your container in the refrigerator, garage, or a cool closet.

Use them or lose them

When it’s spring, always use your oldest seeds first. Seeds will eventually lose potency after time. Annuals should be used within 1-2 years and perennials within 2-4 years.

Collecting and storing seeds
Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about collecting and storing seeds from your garden. Please give this a try in your own garden. Better yet, share seeds with your friends and expand your garden’s varieties this year.

Please browse my other articles on starting a cut flower garden and growing dahlias and zinnias and leave a comment. If you still have seeds left, which you should, make some DIY wildflower seed bombs. If you don’t know what these are, head over to my article on how to make them yourself with the kids here.

Wildflower seed bombs

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2 Replies to “Collecting and Storing Seeds”

  1. I love the pictures on your site! Last fall I saved a bunch of seeds. So far I am only brave enough to save from flowers. I hope to one day graduate to vegetables. Now that the snow is starting to melt (finally) I need to dig those seeds out and get ready to plant them.

    1. I’ve got bags and bags of flowers seeds from last year, mostly zinnia. They reseeded all over the place and are coming up in the rock garden. I’m glad you are almost done with your long winter wait.

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