Seed Collecting Time

Eager and organized gardeners have been collecting seeds for months now, saving pods and capsules from bulbs, perennials, annuals and bulbs as they ripened, or letting them get mushy (tomatoes) or go to seed without deadheading (lupins, alliums) to collect seeds. Other gardeners (ie me) forget, can’t be bothered, procrastinate until it’s too late, or, as in today’s example, collect the seed heads but wait for for an ‘appropriate’ time to process the seeds.

I snipped off stems and seed heads from annual poppies (the dark purple Lauren’s Grape), dill and Nigella many weeks ago, stuffing them or carefully placing them in jars until ’til I found the time to separate the seeds, write labels and store them in plastic pill bottles. I plan to prepare spots for some of these in the garden in the coming weeks, and scatter them before our first frost in mid October. They should germinate in situ next spring. The remainder will be portioned into small envelopes to give away at a local Seedy Saturday in late winter.

I had the most fun with the poppies. The cute round seeds heads are hard; at first I thought I would have to break them somehow to release the seeds. Then I realized genetics and nature had made the job easy for me: each seed pod has a ring of holes in it. All I had to do was tap the pods against a container and the seeds spilled out on their own. Bonus from this is I now have decorative pods to add to a vase, handy in winter when there’s nothing blooming.

Dill was also quite simple. I waited for the seeds to turn dark brown before cutting the stems, and after being stored for about a month they easily fell away from the dead flower-like structure that held them in place. Like for all these seeds, gently blowing on the pile will send away small, light bits of stem and dead leaf.

Nigella was the most annoying seed to collect. Not sure why, I don’t recall being annoyed collecting their seeds in the past. Oh wait – I’ve never collected their seeds before. I’ve simply cut the stems, walked to a spot in the garden I wanted them to grow in, and shook the seeds all about, gently disturbing the soil after. The seeds, like poppy seeds, are so small they need light to germinate, so you don’t want to actually ‘sow’ them. This year I decided to be a bit more deliberate about the process, plus I wanted to clean up a bit the bed they had been growing in, without knowing where I wanted to scatter the seeds. I should have shaken them into a jar, like I did with the poppies, but instead tried to shake them onto a piece of paper. Result: Nigella seeds all over the porch, with a few landing on the piece of paper…

The end result, a few thousand seeds:

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