Collect your own seeds

A long lasting gardener’s tradition has been the collection of vegetable seeds such as pumpkin, squash and tomatoes during the harvest season. These seeds would be stored in a dry, cool place and planted in the garden the next spring. There are some gardeners that take it to another level and they want to collect seeds from woody ornamentals such as trees, shrubs and perennials. The one rule with this group is that there are so many exceptions, there is not one general rule for seed collection. Maple trees are a good example of this: Red and Freeman Maple seeds are ready to be picked in late spring, while the rest of the maples’ seed are picked in the fall. Seed of some Asian Maples varieties needs 2-5 years to germinate!  Shrubs, like Ninebarks and Potentillas, sometimes need a helping hand by gardeners using a paint brush to cross pollinate the flowers in order to produce viable seed. Perennials like chrysanthemums may need to be crossed in a controlled greenhouse environment to produce seeds.

If you are successful in collecting seed from one of the woody ornamentals then it is time to look up on the web how to handle the seed for successful germination. Some seeds require no cold period, Monarda is one of them; others such as nut trees require a cold period of at least 2-3 months while other seeds, like roses need a warm and moist storage of a couple months, then followed by three months of cold and moist before they can germinate.

It is always important to understand when a seed is ready to be picked. Apple seeds are brown and not a light colour when picked. Seeds always have to be separated from the fruit or capsule in which they are enclosed. The fleshy fruit acts as a deterrent to germination. Some seeds like, honeylocust and sumac, may require a hot water treatment of around 88◦C (190◦F) to break down the hard outer seed shell before they will germinate.

A quick test to see if your seed is viable is to put the clean seed into a bowl of water. If the seed sinks to the bottom of the bowl, then it is likely that the seed has fully developed and is viable.  If the seed floats on the water, then the seed is not fully formed and unlikely to germinate. Most seeds can last many years in storage if they are placed in a dark, dry and cool place, there are seeds such as oaks and aspens that need to be planted in the same year they were collected. 

Happy Gardening!


For more ideas ask your local garden center professionals and make sure you follow us on FacebookTwitter,YouTubePinterest and Instagram for other help tips and hints.



Guest post by Rick - Bylands Product Development

I was born and brought up in Manitoba, and this has influenced my outlook and forged my love of the prairies. I now live in the Okanagan Valley and continue to focus on improving plant material suited for the Canadian prairies. The advantage of living and working in a Zone 5 is that I can easily access a wider variety of plant material to breed with a select group of cold hardy material that I brought with me from Manitoba.  I look forward to introducing new plants from Bylands in future years. With my wife Karen, we enjoy the opportunity on weekends to hike the first class hiking trails in the Kelowna area.



Photo by Shaun Holloway on Unsplash