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Growing plants from seed is generally straightforward and inexpensive. It is an opportunity to increase the number of plants in your garden for free.
Seed can be saved from many trees, shrubs, perennials, aquatic plants, alpines, annuals, biennials, bulbous plants, ornamental grasses vegetables and herbs.
Harvest your own seed is fun but takes a little understanding and planning:
Seed comes in many different natural packaging. The most common forms include:
Berries (e.g. holly)Capsules (e.g. poppy)Catkins (e.g. birch)Cones (e.g. pine)Exploding seedheads (e.g. Euphorbia lathyris)Nuts (e.g. hazel)Pods (e.g. sweet peas)Winged seed (e.g. Acer, sycamore)
Some seeds (e.g. hellebore) are best sown immediately as their viability reduces with storage. However, for many species, sowing is best delayed until a more suitable time of the year, such as autumn or spring, so the harvested seed will need to be safely stored until sowing. Storing is also required if surplus seed has been collected. Here's how:
Lack of collectable seed: Some plants are sterile and cannot set seed. Trying to collect seed from such plants will obviously be disappointing. Others (e.g. holly) may carry male and female flowers on separate plants so male plants will never bear seed.
Seed production can be exhausting for a plant so it is also not uncommon for seed production to be cyclical – some years will be good for harvesting, others bad – or it may simply be that weather conditions for that season were not favourable, perhaps due to a late frost or drought.
Poor viability (the length of time that seed stays alive and able to germinate): If seed is sown but fails to germinate, it suggests it was not viable. Seed viability depends on the condition of the seed when first stored, how long it is stored and what seed is being kept. A good propagation book - e.g. RHS Propagating Plants Book - should be consulted.
Broad bean seed beetleBulbs: propagationRHS Members’ seed schemeVegetable seeds: sowingSeed: sowing hardy annualsSeed: sowing indoorsSeed: sowing outdoorsTrees and shrubs from seedRHS Propagating Plants BookGarden Organic Heritage Seed LibraryAlpine Garden SocietyHardy Plant SocietyCottage Garden Society
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