It’s March in South Eastern Australia, which means early Autumn. Many plants are flowering and going to seed about now. A home gardener can really take advantage of seeds as well as the harvest of fruit and veggies.
Comfrey flowering. Comfrey is a fantastic herb. Its leaves are great for healing the skin and it has deep roots that draw up nutrients from deep in the soil. It will grow well from cuttings and seed. Comfrey is a favourite with gardeners for “green manure” in the compost heap. The seeds can be saved or allowed to spread naturally and “self-sow”.
Basil may produce fertile seeds, which should be saved and dried for next Summer. Basil doesn’t like Southern Australia’s cool Winters.
This lovely little mess is lettuces that have “bolted” to seed. In the Summer heat many greens will go to seed quite quickly, so stagger the planting if you want to be able to harvest and eat them longer. These seeds will self-sow quite easily or can be stored and spread around the garden/food forest. Greens like lettuce, chards, kale and spinach can be grown in part shade.
The seeds of this green mignon lettuce are attached to little fluffy heads that help the wind distribute them naturally.
Seeds can be collected by hand from these flowers and seed heads.
Another way to catch these small, fly away seeds is with a bag. Ideally a paper bag is used and the cut stems of the plant are hung in a dry, cool place for the seeds to drop. Here a plastic bag is used because its a big bunch and the seeds aren’t going to be stored. They do need to be dry for storage or mould can get them.
Many plants, including broccoli, kale, rocket, pak choy, wom bok and other brassicas will produce seeds in little papery packets like miniature pea pods. This method is useful for collecting those seeds.
Coriander flowers. Coriander is a fantastic Asian herb which is great for both its medicinal value and its flavour. It can be used raw in salads or added to stir fries and soups. It is a helpful tonic.
Seeds can be gathered by hand from coriander, or allowed to self-sow. It will grow most of the year in Southern Australia. The seeds can also be eaten in stir fries and curries. They aren’t too small, so pick them by hand or leave them in a bag to drop.
Seeds can also be saved from fruit and veggies. These cucumbers were allowed to hang on the vine for a while for seeds to develop.
Either they didn’t stay long enough or the variety is seedless. Next year I’ll be buying the seeds from Diggers and make sure to get a couple, say lebanese and apple cucumbers. Similar varieties like that can cross pollinate so you get a hybrid. By saving the seeds from the most vigorous plant you end up, over the course of several seasons, with a selectively bred variety that grows better in your climate.
Humans have been using this method to develop different types of veggies for thousands of years. You certainly don’t need a lab or genetic modification to improve a crop naturally. By growing “live” the crops are often more productive as well because there aren’t the issues with transplanting a lab bred, protected plant out into the open.
This pumpkin is a much better example. These seeds can be dried and kept till next Spring. Squash, cucumber, zuccini, capsicums, chillies, tomatoes and lots of other plants can be grown from seed saved like this.
Dry tansy stems with seed heads. Tansy is a cute little daisy like herb that will happily self-sow once it is established in the garden. It helps repel pests and draw helpful insects.
These are the stems, dried flowers and tiny little seeds of tansy.
Two stems produced all these seeds. It could be called prolific. They can be stored till next Spring or scattered around when the weather is a little cooler and damper. Like borage, lettuce, chards, coriander and rocket, tansy will spring up all over the place quite happily in this climate.
When you’ve collected the seeds you want, make sure they’re nice and dry for storage. They keep well in paper bags or jars. Grow your own and save the seeds, and without much fuss or extra expense you can have fresh grown veggies and herbs in future for as long as you like.