Harvesting your own seed
Remember I said that we managed to over-winter some rocket? Well, this month it has come into flower, and it looks as though we are going to have an abundance of rocket seeds just in time for spring planting. I am chuffed about this because a) you can never have enough rocket, and b) I was about to go and buy a load of rocket seeds, and now I don’t have to!
Harvesting your own seeds is a really great way of keeping the cost of your allotment down. Packets of seed at the garden centre often cost around the £3 mark – but growing your own? Well, that’s free…
Seeds that I have successfully harvested myself include:
-- coriander – these have the added bonus that you can use any surplus seeds in curries
-- borlotti beans – these dry really well, and I just love their pink-and-white marbled appearance
-- peas – just make sure you soak the dried peas in a little water overnight before you sow them
-- nigella – also known as love-in-the-mist, these have copious seeds which dry out within the pretty seed head
-- tomatoes – as long as you don’t select a hybrid variety, these should self-pollinate and produce offspring that are similar to the parent plant.
One important thing to know is that you shouldn’t try to harvest seeds from a hybrid variety plant. Hybrids are created by careful cross-pollination of two parent plants to create a plant with particular characteristics. Seed from the offspring plant will have varied characteristics, and won’t have the ‘hybrid vigor’ which makes the shop-bought seeds so desirable.
You might find it useful to construct a FIGO frame to put protective netting over your plants while you wait for the seed to ripen - otherwise you may discover that the birds get there first!
Seeds need to be dried out thoroughly before they are stored. I like to spread mine out on newspaper, and keep them for a few weeks on a shelf in an insulated outhouse. If you have an airing cupboard and can spare the space, that makes ideal seed-drying territory!
When the seeds are dry and ready for storage, put them into labelled envelopes, and seal them properly. There is little more annoying than finding a mixed-up sea of seeds rolling around the bottom of your storage box!
Have you ever harvested seed successfully? What tips would you give other growers?