Collecting flower seeds
If you still have seed pods and seed heads in your garden, now is your last chance to collect, dry, label and store them before the winter weather arrives and they disperse on the wind or into the garden. Here are a few important steps to take to ensure you have healthy seeds to plant out come spring.
Seeds You Can Collect Now
Seeds from marigold, cornflower, stock, love-in-a-mist, forget-me-not, ornamental flowering carrot (Daucus carota), sweet pea, borage, cosmos, pansy, viola, phacelia and lobelia are most likely to be in your garden at this time of the year, especially if you live in the warmer parts of the country.
Seeds Not to Save
If you have grown flower (or vegetable) plants from F1 hybrid seeds this year, the seeds may not be true to the original flower the following season. Some F1 seeds will be infertile and some will produce different traits to the plants you first harvested. It should say on the packet if your seeds are F1, and if you are ordering seeds online the F1 seeds should be clearly identified.
What Is an F1 Seed?
F1 is an abbreviation of the words ‘Filial 1’, meaning ‘first children’ in Latin, and basically indicates a new generation of a plant. An F1 seed is the result of the selective cross-pollination of two different varieties of a plant. No ‘genetic modification’ is involved with F1 seeds, but rather two parent plants are provided with a controlled environment in which Mother Nature can run its course. Often, the resulting plant is one intended to have more desirable aspects, such as better disease resistance, greater colour range or similar.
It is important to pick your seeds at around 2pm on a dry day. At this time of the year, most of the remaining seeds in your garden will have browned off. Remove all the pods, leaves, and bits and pieces (chaff) that may come with the seeds when you pick them. A sieve comes in handy for this job when the seeds are tiny. If you are unsure of how dry they are, spread them on a tray or tea towel (or in a pizza box, the low sides of which allow for good airflow), in a dry place. Once the seeds have completely dried (anything from one to three weeks), store them in a jar with a sealed lid, a sealed envelope, or a sealed brown paper bag. Do not use plastic bags or plastic containers for storing seeds over long periods as they may sweat.
Labelling your containers is important because if you think you will remember or be able to identify all your seeds without labelling them, think again. So, write names and dates on your brown paper bags/jars/envelopes with a black felt pen (or use a stick-on white label) and, if you like, add the garden you harvested the seeds from (for example, ‘John’s Mum’s Garden’, ‘My Backyard’, ‘Pinched from the Park’ or ‘The Neighbour’s Footpath Garden’. This way, you are recording where the flowers you grow at your place have come from.
If you are experimenting with growing seeds in different types of soil or obtaining your seeds from someone else’s garden, you may want to record those details on your hand-made seed packets too. You can call these details your flower terroir. While used predominantly in the wine-growing industry to describe everything from topography to soil, who says you cannot use it for what you grow in your garden, too?
Seeds from your own garden make beautiful gifts, and this is when those extra descriptive details can make all the difference. Imagine packaging up a handful of love-in-a-mist seeds and giving them to a loved one. Now that is a special gift, made with love!
Store Seeds in a Dry Place Over Winter
Do not store seeds in a moist area or one that is hot and gets no wind movement – these conditions may see your seeds become infected by fungal disease or dry out and die. Once in storage, do check your seeds at least once every three to four weeks over winter and remove any seeds that may have deteriorated to reduce the chance of infecting any more.
You can collect seeds from flowers that bloom and go to seed any time throughout the season. So, keep an eye out and as soon as seeds brown off, harvest them. Also, it is worth noting that there are some flowers, like salvias, that can be easier to propagate by cuttings than they are by seed.