Olbrich Home Crackle Fire and Froth

Seed Collecting

by Wendy Gasch, Horticulturist

Autumn is an excellent time to collect and save the seeds of your favorite summer blooming perennials and annuals. Not only is propagation fun and rewarding, it is also smart environmentally. By perpetuating plants that grow well in your garden, you are reducing the need for water and pesticides.

Seed collection should begin once the seeds are ripe but before birds, animals, or wind disperses them. An easy way to make sure you do not miss this window to collect your seeds, is to begin monitoring the plants you are gathering seeds from, in late summer or early fall. A simple way to test if the seeds are ready for collection is to shake the seed head over your hand. If seeds fall they are ready to be collected. One common method of collection is to shake the ripened seeds into a paper bag, not plastic since this may encourage mold.

To prepare the seeds for storage remove any excess plant debris and allow them to dry thoroughly. Drying is as simple as spreading the seeds out on newspaper or a paper bag in a cool, dry space in your home.

Finally, place the seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Remember to label! Include plant name, collection location, and the date they were collected. Refrigeration works great for winter storage. Keeping seeds at a constant temperature helps maintain their viability, preparing you for a successful sowing in the spring.

Seeds vary widely as to their propagation requirements; so a little research goes a long way to ensure success. Olbrich's Schumacher library is an excellent resource for all types of information on this subject.

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Olbrich Botanical Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens | 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. | Phone: (608)246-4550 | Fax: (608)246-4719