How to Harvest and Store Seeds

paper envelope with seeds

Shutterstock/Charlotte Lake

Saving seeds from the plants you love is a long-standing tradition in gardening. A way to pass on your favourite flowers generation after generation. It’s not only cost-effective, but it means you can also share them with family and friends. Once you get the hang of it, you can have a beautifully blooming garden year after year at zero cost!

The best plants to save seeds from are ones that are openly pollinated, heirloom cultivars, and  old fashioned plants like what you’d find in your grandmother’s garden.

Seed saving also allows you to cultivate your own plants and even hybridise them, although with the caveat that seeds taken from hybrid plants will not always produce the same plant as it’s parent. Nevertheless, it’s fun to experiment with it.

The best time to harvest seeds

Knowing when to get the seeds is the first important step of preserving them right. We’ll get to that in a minute.

The best time to harvest seeds from your flowers of choice is at the end of their blooming season. You can tell their time has come when the seed pods go from green to brown/yellow and are easily cracked open by pinching them. If you practice deadheading around your garden, it’s a good opportunity to gather some seeds. Although it’s a good idea to wait a bit longer to let the seed pods ripen properly before plucking them.

Choose a dry and sunny day for the task. You don’t want any moisture on your seeds.

Seed harvesting is simple

It’s more a matter of where you harvest seeds from than how. The best practice is to choose your healthiest best-growing plants to ensure strong virile seeds. This cultivation will provide your garden with better and better plants each year.

As for the collection itself. Use sharp clean scissors to separate the seed pods and then shake the seeds off into a paper envelope. Plastic and glass containers don’t work well because they prevent seeds from airing out the moisture in them. This is essential for their good preservation, as moisture can lead to mould or other potential problems, like premature germination.

Labelling the paper envelopes is highly encouraged. This way you can keep track on the type of seeds inside. Putting down notes like flower colour and when the seeds were harvested is also helpful information you may want to keep.

Storing harvested seeds

Before putting them in storage it’s always a good idea to dry them for about a week. This is best done by laying them on some kind of paper and keeping them at room temperature. Refrain from using glossy paper as those are heavily treated with chemicals. We advise you to keep them in a well-lit place, but outside of direct sunlight.

After the drying is done store the seeds in a cool and dry place. They must be dry at all times. Temperatures around 5-10 °C are ideal. Never let the seeds freeze or overheat as this will damage or may even kill them.

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