Seed harvesting begins

August 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm 2 comments

Chive seedsDo you harvest the seeds from your plants? I do. I know this sounds like a tedious, painstaking chore, but actually, for the most part, it’s not. And when you compare how easy it is to harvest a handful of seeds to what you would pay at a garden centre for a tiny envelope of those same seeds, it’s an easy and satisfying thing to do. I love walking around the garden in late summer and fall collecting seed pods from the plants. Already I have a stash of small jars starting to fill up with chive, columbine, poppy, tomato and cosmos seeds. Sweet peas and nasturtiums will be next – these are in their peak right now, but it won’t be long before tiny seed pods form in place of the flowers.

Here is a quick outline of a few of the easiest seeds to harvest. It’s probably no coincidence that they are also some of the easiest plants to grow from seeds.

1. Poppies: Each poppy flower will leave behind a round seed head. Leave this to dry on the stem until it is brown and hard. When you shake it, you should hear the tiny black seeds inside rattling around. Break the seed heads open carefully into a jar or envelope. Sprinkle the seeds in early spring on the open ground. Don’t cover them up – they’ll start sprouting after the first rain. I’ve found that most poppies are really easy to grow.

2. Tomatoes: I’ve been separating and drying seeds from the tomatoes growing on our deck: every time I pick a small bowl for a salad or snacking, I separate the seeds from a couple of the tomatoes. It adds up fast…last spring I purchased a tiny package of 12 heirloom tomatoes from a local grower for $3 at the local Seedy Saturday seed exchange and sale. Not cheap! But most of them germinated and now we have a bevy of tomato plants growing on the deck, with each tomato yielding at least a couple of dozen seeds. Between the delicious tomatoes and the seeds we can save for next year, I view it as money well spent. Tomato seeds should be started indoors very early in the spring. In Calgary, I planted about 2 dozen seeds in small pots in mid-March under a thin layer of dirt. I brought them outside in May (protected with Kozy Koats) and we started enjoying home grown tomatoes in mid-July.

3. Chives: Wait until the purple flowers fade and turn papery. You’ll see little black seeds growing inside each flower petal. Snip off the whole flower head and shake it into a jar or envelope. You can scatter the seeds outdoors or in pots under a thin layer of dirt in either the fall or spring. They’re easy to grow and you’ll be rewarded all summer long with fresh chives for cooking.

4. Cosmos: Leave spent flowers on the plant and eventually you will see a small ring of hard, tooth-shaped seeds form. You have to be on the look-out for these – once they get to this stage it is easy for the seeds to fall onto the ground. If this is the case, some of them might survive the winter and pop up into flowers again next year. But since cosmos are so quick and easy to grow from seed, I prefer to harvest them in the summer and fall for late spring planting.

5. Dill: If you have dill growing in your garden, you’ll be left with a big spray of seeds at the end of the season, after the yellow flowers have bloomed. Just shake these off the plant into a jar or paper envelope. If you visit seed exchanges, you’ll find dill to be one of the most ubiquitous seeds, frequently available for free.

6. Columbine: this has become one of my favorite flowers, so I’ve gotten in the habit of gathering up the seeds and sprinkling them in other spots in our garden so I can grow more of these perfect plants. When the flowers have finished blooming, they will form shiny green seed pods. Wait for these to turn brown and papery and you’ll see a little opening in the top and the hard black seeds inside. When you harvest columbine seeds, make sure to scatter a few right where your plants are growing. Columbine are short-lived perennials (about 2-3 years), so you always want to be replenishing them. With the rest of the seeds you gather, just scatter them on bare ground in the late summer or fall, cover with a dusting of soil and then they will start to grow the following spring. I’ve prefer to grow them directly in the soil as opposed to starting them inside – it’s much easier and you get better results.


Entry filed under: Cooking, Eco, Gardening, Home, Kitchen garden, Life, Local food, Perennial flowers. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cdub  |  August 30, 2009 at 9:24 am

    nice pic!

  • 2. Flowers  |  September 4, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Your blog is interesting. It was nice going through your blog. Keep it up the good work.

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