Seed saving

calendula seed head

Even though the weather has been beautifully summery over the last couple of days, nature is turning autumnal. The rain of August has fattened up the seed heads and now the September sun is drying them out perfectly. All that’s needed next is some October gusts of wind to distribute those seeds across the ground and some November rain to settle them in, before they lay dormant for the winter. But not if I get there first!

I have always saved lots of flower seed heads from the garden, but over time I have started to save more and more of my own seed from the vegetables I grow on the allotment too.

Beans and peas are the obvious ones because they’re so easy to do, and that’s where I started. Then one year I left a couple of leeks to flower (not really intentional) and decided to try saving the seed heads to see if I could re-grow my own leeks, and after a great success I do this every year now and haven’t bought leek seed for years.

I have saved squash and courgette seeds, but they often cross pollinate and produce some odd results, but it can be interesting to see what you might get.

I allow my purple sprouting broccoli to flower, because the bright yellow flowers look quite beautiful en masse, and the bees love them. Once they’re done, it’s quite simple to collect the seed heads in a paper bag and save them.

I also save the chilli seeds from the plants I grow at home, and occasionally bell peppers too, although I haven’t grown these this year. I haven’t yet tried saving tomato seeds because they have to be fermented, and the process puts me off, but I’ll get around to trying it sometime, maybe this is the year I face the fermenting fear?

However, two new things I’m saving this year are lettuce and sweetcorn.

lettuce seed4 lettuce seed3 lettuce seed2

The lettuce, after it bolted, looked like nothing more than a weed on my plot, and I came close to pulling it out many a time. But I held my nerve and left it alone, and now each bud is filled with lettuce seed, each one attached to it’s own feathery parachute, just waiting for those autumn winds for lift off.

red lettuce flowering

The red lettuce was planted a little later, and the variety is very slow to bolt,  but finally it’s covered with flower buds that are ready to open and become pollinated. I’m just hoping there is time yet.

sweetcorn drying

I don’t know why I haven’t tried saving sweetcorn before. Probably because I’ve greedily eaten it all before I’ve given it a thought. But this year one of the cobs had already started to dry out on the plant, and I decided rather than send it to the compost heap, I’d see if it will dry out (rather than just rot) and give me some seed for next year. I cut off the end which had gone a bit off, and have been leaving it out in the sunniest spots I can, and so far it seems to be drying out nicely. I’m not going to need all of this, so I’ll pick and choose the best kernels to re-sow next year and keep my fingers crossed.

sunflower seed head

The calendula in the first picture, and the nasturtiums, are pretty good at looking after themselves with no help from me. They shed their seed easily, the seeds grow easily, and the plants are hardy enough to grow through whatever the weather throws at them. However, some flowers, like the sunflowers, need a helping hand. If they were to self seed in a hot enough climate with no spring frosts, they’d be fine, but we don’t live there. So I’ll save one of the flowering heads for sowing next spring, and leave the rest for the birds and squirrels and mice to fight over.

seeds saved so far

It’s not just about saving money on seeds next year, although that’s a bonus, I find that my own saved seed is often better at germinating and growing than seed I’ve bought. I guess because it’s fresher (you never know how long some seed has been kept in storage), also I can pick the best seeds from a batch, I know they’ve come from a disease-free successful crop, and an organically grown one at that. So I’m more in control of the process, and more than anything, it completes the circle of nature, and I find that quite satisfying.

Hope some of you are doing the same.



  1. What a very useful post. I always save bean seed and leave a row of lettuces to go to seed to give me an early crop but encouraged by this post I’m going to see what other seed I can find. I’ve saved tomato seed by letting the seed dry out on a piece of kitchen paper. As long as it’s not a sterile F1 hybrid it germinates easily. I also always let Nigella and cornflower self-seed around the plot which means I have effort-free flowers in June.


  2. Great idea with the sweetcorn, we have a few dried cobs still on the stalks so may give this a try also.. I have been collecting seeds also, and propagating my Begonia plants.
    Lovely post.. and photo’s
    Happy Gardening


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