Saving seeds offers sense of achievement

Coneflowers, also known as rudbeckia.
Coneflowers, also known as rudbeckia.

Saving seed from favourite garden and greenhouse plants is not just about counting the pennies, although it certainly impacts favourably on overall costs.

For me, it has more to do with a sense of achievement.

When the crop grown is the result of seed that you harvested and stored from the previous year’s plants, it is much more satisfying than simply buying a packet.

Some flowering plants will stand in the border displaying seed heads for ages, awaiting your attention.

Sunflowers, coneflowers and fullers’ teasel (dipsacum) are typical examples.

Others are less predictable, releasing them before you have a chance to collect.

It pays to monitor plants that disperse seeds by nodding, shaking or explosive mechanism and act well before they reach maturity.

Given a slight breeze, foxgloves and poppies will soon lose their seeds.

Broom, lupin, herbaceous geranium, pansy and busy lizzie have capsules that suddenly burst open, projecting the contents as far away from the parent plant as possible. If you wish to harvest any of these, get a paper bag in place early.

Cyclamen hederifolium is in full glorious bloom right now and I eagerly anticipate the formation of its round seed capsules.

As the blooms fade and they develop, the flower stem transforms into a spring that draws them down to ground level.

If you don’t collect and sow them soon afterwards, nature takes over and seedlings gradually appear around the parent plant.

I save the seeds of several vegetables, starting off with courgettes in early summer which, by autumn, become marrows, which is fine, but there’s a limit to the number of times stuffed marrow can be served at dinner.

One is reserved for seed, which is easily scooped out from the centre, dried and stored.

Peas and various beans are saved by first leaving them on the plant until the pods shrivel and dry out.

All seeds keep well in a cool, dry place until sowing time comes around again.

Ours are stored in a special tin box from Suttons. For details, go to

If you order a minimum of three packets of seeds from its 2016 catalogue, the same box is still available for £2.

Saving onion seed takes a little more time and patience, but it’s not rocket science.

A friend called in recently with a bulb of good shape, size and ripeness, and he suggested that I seed it.

This is an activity to be savoured so it’s standing in a cool, frost-proof place in full light and will tell me when to fill a pot with compost and place it gently on top. The sign will be new roots emerging and ready to go.

Given moderate warmth and good light, a flower stem will eventually emerge.

When it’s in full bloom, I’ll use a small, soft brush to help pollination.