We all know you can grow yummy fruit and vegetables in even the smallest of urban spaces, but did you know you can save seeds from these plants year after year?
You can save seeds from a huge range of flowering plants - both edible and ornamental. Here are some of our favourites that we like to collect here in our Trees for Cities office garden.
The first thing you should know about seed saving is that you can’t save seeds from plants which were grown using F1 hybrid seeds. If you look at your original seed packet, you will most likely find this information clearly stated. Instead you’ll need open pollinated seeds and the Real Seeds Company are a great supplier of these.
Secondly, ensure your seeds are completely dry before you store them and keep them in a dry, airtight container until you need them. Preferably this container should be in a cool, dark place. Some people even keep them in their fridge!
Thirdly, perhaps this summer you planted out some lettuce or spinach and it bolted (went to flower) very quickly? Don’t panic - the good news is that you can wait until the plant dries out and harvest the seeds to sow them again. You’ve basically saved seeds without even meaning to!
Finally, why not swap your seeds with your neighbours? This is not only a lovely way of sharing with your local community, but it also means you will have a greater variety of fruit, vegetables and flowers to try growing yourself. Find out if there is a local seed exchange near you and take your freshly-saved seeds along!
Easy seeds to save:
This plant goes to flower very easily and therefore you can collect the seeds quite often. For those of you who enjoy cooking Indian cuisine, the seeds will be instantly recognisable as they're a key ingredient in many dishes. The seeds are ready to harvest when they're looking dry and brown. Take the top of the seed stalk and tickle the seeds until they fall into your hand or a container.
Rocket is another plant that will set seed readily when you least want it to! But no problem, you can collect the seeds instead. The plants will flower first and then long seed pods will form full of little brown seeds. Once the seed pod is dry and brown you can carefully take the pod and it will easily split open ready for you to take the seeds out. Be careful as the pods are desperate to burst open and spread their seeds far and wide, so handle with care to stop them scattering.
Did you know peas are seeds? To save peas for sowing it is best to sow some pea plants that are entirely for seed saving rather than for edible harvesting. Let the peas mature on the plants until the pods are brown and the seeds start to rattle. Then simply take the pod off the plant and open the pod to reveal the seeds inside.
Again this is a really simple plant to harvest seeds from. Once the plant flowers and the flower bud dries out, the seeds start to become more apparent at the end of the flower stalk. Once it has turned brown and dried out, take the flower bud in your fingers and pull it off. The seeds should fall into your hand, but you can pick them apart from the bud if they are still attached.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list or methodology, so if you like to really dive deep into seed saving we recommend checking out the Real Seeds Company as they have some great advice.
Let us know if you give it a go yourself and how you get on. Happy seed-saving!