SEED SAVING; Increasing biodiversity, restoring our native species populations, herb and plant sovereignty

A few years ago someone in the local gardening group suggested that we get someone to give a workshop on how to save seeds. I think in the end some people travelled down to Brown Envelop Seeds, a great company that sells a range of vegetable and herbs seeds that they have grown and saved themselves (see the Veriditas Hibernica resources section for a link to their website).

I decided just to give it a go and see how many plants we could save seeds from to share with the students and other interested people and how difficult it would be to do this.

The last two summers have been great for getting good yields of seeds. What we discovered was that seed saving is not difficult. One difficulties here can be high humidity or preciptation levels so that one has to watch out for the ideal harvest day and optimum seed maturity and hope that they coincide. If they do not I discovered that one can harvest the mature seed and blot them with kitchen paper and allow to dry gradually for storage.

I also discovered that seed saving for optimal viability requires regular visits to the plants to check how the seeds are coming on.

We had been warned that the viability of some seeds can be quite low. This proved rather a source of amusment as we set 2 x 96 module trays of marshmallow seeds in hope of getting maybe 10-30 plants. We ended up with nearly 200 but that was grand as we found willing takers for them all.

Some seeds are definitely better sown fresh, such as Sweet Cicely and I have only managed to germinate Angelica archangelica but allowing it to self seed. Last year we ended up with hundreds of seedlings this way.

Last year we saved the following seeds and have passed a lot of them around for people to experiment with germination rates and observe whether plants from saved seed adapt better to their locality.

  • Angelica (needs to be sown fresh)
  • Anthirrinum (waiting results)
  • Bluebell (awaiting results)
  • Burdock (excellent viability)
  • Calendula/Pot marigold (good viability)
  • Celery, leaf variety or cutting celery (awaiting reports)
  • Clary sage (good viability)
  • Cornflower (awaiting results)
  • Dandelion
  • Evening primrose (good viability)
  • Fat hen (awaiting reports)
  • Hollyhock (good results)
  • Honesty (awaiting results)
  • Marshmallow (excellent viability)
  • Meadowsweet (awaiting results)
  • Mugwort (seems to do better from self seeding, but awaiting results)
  • Nettle (awaiting results)
  • Parsley, flat leaved (awaiting results)
  • Plantain 3 varieties P. Lanceolata, major and coronopus (awaiting results)
  • Prunella vulgaris (tends to germinate well)
  • Rosa canina (awaiting results)
  • Rosebay willowherb (awaiting results)
  • Saint John’s wort (good viability)
  • Sage (this is the first year that our sage plants have set seed)
  • Salad burnet (awaiting results)
  • Sow thistle (awaiting reports)
  • Sweet Cicely (needs to be sown fresh)
  • Sweet william (reasonable viability)
  • Teasel (good viability)
  • Vervain (verbena officinalis) Great germination rate. These were wild crafted seed provided by Chris.
  • Woad (good germination rate)
  • Wood betony (this has always been difficult from seed so awaiting results eagerly)
  • Withania/ashwaganda (good results)

We have only retained a small stock of seeds this year since we wanted to test germination rates and so forth but plan to continue saving this year and build up stocks as well as passing seed on.

We are about to harvest Butcher’s broom and wintergreen fruits to save the seed.

We also have strong stock plants established for taking slips/cuttings where germination is not so good in our climate eg Rosemary, Wormwood, lavender. We have found that the slips from the parent plants do indeed adapt to the location well since the parent plants are ones that have thrived here.

Some useful links: