Buying plants at the garden centre is fabulous (ours do the best lemon sponge cake too) but the cost can soon mount up so what do you do?
There are a number of ways you can do it and my favourites are from cuttings & from seeds from the previous year. Today we are going to concentrate on how to collect seeds & how to store them ready for the following year.
When do they go to seed?
This all depends on the variety of plant you want to harvest from. In regards to our sweetpeas (I'll use them as an example) harvesting is in September. They will flower through out the Summer - the more you dead head them, the longer they will flower. Seed pods are unmistakable, you can even see the seeds in the pod in the picture above.
How do you know when they are ready?
They will inevitably have that 'crunch' where they have fully dried out. Another telltale sign is that the pod has started opening & splitting ready for the seeds to drop out. They will no longer be green pods or seeds but a brown, neutral tone too. The seeds to would have shrunk in size & be much darker in colour - seed our pictures below.
How to store them:
Open each of the pods & pull out the seeds. You then need to store them, check out our downloadable seed packet template on our website which is perfect! Simply print them out at home and mark on them the date of collection & what is inside the packet.
Seeds should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Place the seed packets in an airtight, watertight container such as a jar with a rubber seal, this would be ideal. They say seeds should be kept cool (ideally, below 50 degrees), some people store them in a jar in their refrigerator or freezer but mine is simply left in a dark, cool cabinet & I've never had any issues before.
Seeds in good condition and stored properly will last at least one year and, depending on the plant, may last two to five years. (I've had luck in the past planting some very old seeds)
Here is a table I found online for average storage times that I thought might come in handy:
1 year: onions, parsnips, parsley, salsify, and spinach
2 years: corn, peas, beans, chives, okra, dandelion
3 years: carrots, leeks, asparagus, turnips, rutabagas
4 years: peppers, chard, pumpkins, squash, watermelons, basil, artichokes and cardoons
5 years: most brassicas, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, muskmelons, celery, celeriac, lettuce, endive, chicory
We hope we've helped you a little with your seed storing for a free garden next year. If you have any questions feel free to message us at firstname.lastname@example.org & we'll aim to get back to you as soon as possible. Happy Gardening!