Saving seeds

Saving seeds of many plants is easy, writes Pauline Pears. And it will save you money too.

Take lettuce. If you’ve sown lettuce in spring and early summer, you should be harvesting some around now.

Eat some and leave some plants to bolt – which just means the lettuce starts to produce a flower stem.

At this stage you would normally throw the plants on the compost heap, but leave a plant or two to grow and produce flowers.

As the flowers mature they’ll produce a white, dandelion-like fuzz. Gently pull this fuzz and you will see a bunch of seeds come away with it.

Keep these seeds to sow again. Stored in a cool, dry place they’ll last several years.

Packeted up nicely they’ll make a great little gifts.

Tomatoes are good for this too. Just pick a ripe fruit from the middle of the plant and squish out the seeds.

Now place them individually on a sheet of kitchen paper, let them dry, then fold it up and keep it for next season.

Some vegetables, such as pumpkins, squashes and courgettes will inter-breed – so the offspring won’t be the same as the parent plant. You can find more advice on vegetable seed saving from Garden Organic

You can have similar fun with flowers too. Saving seed from annual flowers is useful as you need to sow new plants every year.

Hardy annuals, such as marigolds and stocks, are the easiest. Try your luck also with nasturtium, poached egg plant, night scented stock, "Phacelia tancetifolia", poppies, viper’s bugloss and sunflowers.

The flowers you get may not be identical to the one the seed came from – but that’s all part of the fun.

Pauline Pears is Editor of 'The Organic Way', the magazine for Garden Organic