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Collecting seed
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Seed doesn’t have to come in packets – you can collect seed from plants growing in the garden. This is a very satisfying way of growing your own plants as well as being amazingly cheap. You can collect seed from many types of plant, from trees to vegetables, but perennials are a good place to start as they are quick to grow into plants that last year after year. The secret of success is to collect the seed at the right time and then either sow it while it is ripe or store it correctly. Most perennials will set seed from midsummer to late summer. Sometimes the plants raised from seed will be identical to the parent plant this is called 'coming true.' Other times they will not and will have, for instance, slightly different flower colour.
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you will need
Secateurs; sheet of clean paper; fine sieve or drinking straw (optional); paper bags; pen; sticky labels; storage jars eg empty film canisters or jam jar with screw top lid plus small envelopes; silica gel.
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step1
Choose a healthy plant, if a plant is diseased or has a virus this can be passed on in the seed. After flowering has faded the seed heads form, then they ripen before the seeds are dispersed. You need to wait until the seed is ripe but then collect it quickly. Seedheads often split open when the seeds are ripe, the seed often changes colour too. Collect seed on a dry day as damp seed will rot in store.
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step2
Cut off the seedheads and take them indoors. Put a clean sheet of paper on a flat surface and use your fingers to remove the seeds from the surrounding petals. To collect seeds from poppies and other perennials that eject fine seed rapidly, cut stems with the seedhead on the top and put the lot in a paper bag with the seedhead at the bottom.
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step3
It is worth cleaning up the seed ie removing any surrounding chaff. You can use a sieve or just blow the chaff away using a drinking straw. If the seed is surrounded by a fleshy berry, mash the berries up with some water and press them through a sieve. Allow the seeds to dry on kitchen towel. Get into the habit of labelling the seed, what it is and when it was collected – this will be a great help the following spring.
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step4
To store, put dry seed in an airtight container such as an empty film canister. Add a sachet of silica gel (these are sometimes put in shoe boxes). An alternative, is to put some loose silica gel (from chemists) in the bottom of a screw top jar and to pop in seed in paper envelopes and put the lid on. The jars should be kept in the salad compartment of the ‘fridge. If the silica gel turns colour, it needs to be put in a just-warm oven to drive off the water then returned to the jar.
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Cut off ripe seedheads on a dry day.
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Remove seeds and leave to dry on a piece of kitchen towel.
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Label and store seeds in airtight containers until spring.

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