The Seed Saving Garden

It's time to harvest seeds for next year's garden!

Credit: Carolyn Herriot


You can see from this photo that this part of the garden is filled with plants going to seed. If you look closely you will see the herbs lovage, sweet cicely calendula, coriander and borage going to seed. Larkspur, nigella and Chrysanthemum segatum (corn marigold) are the flowers setting seeds, and there are vegetable seeds maturing of ‘Siegfried Frost’ leeks, rucola (Italian arugula), Mr. Barton’s heritage broad beans, silverbeet chard, Brazilian snow peas and Red Russian kale. All this in such a small space! Let’s take a closer look –

‘Green Globe’ artichokes

globe artichokes This is one of my favourite sights in the garden because I know that next week these buds will open to reveal shimmering violet thistles inside. The expression ‘looks too good to eat’ certainly applies here! The seeds will be ripe when the thistles turn to feathery white hairs, preparing the hard seeds attached for wind dispersal. I make sure to step in before this happens, after all I have sacrificed eating the artichoke hearts for the seeds.

Rucola – Italian arugula

italian arugula I brought a packet of rucola seeds back from a holiday in Italy, and they have now happily self-seeded in my garden. This Italian variety of rocket is large-leaved and easy to harvest. I prefer picking the smaller leaves before this mustard green gets hot and peppery. Thinnings are perfect for salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes and stir fries. Some plants continue to mature seed even after being taken out of the ground. Arugula is one of them. I harvest for seed as soon as I see the pods turning yellow, as they pop open and scatter seeds soon after this point. I cut off and collect seed heads in a brown paper bag, so they pop open and scatter their seeds inside it.

Red Russian kale

kale This has to be one of the easiest plants to grow. You can see from this photo how many seedpods there are bursting with little, round black seeds. This variety of kale is good year round because it is tender to eat raw or cooked. In winter it gets sweeter because cells produce sugar as antifreeze after hard frosts.

Brazilian peas seed

pea seeds, brazilian peas seed Brazilian snow peas are very productive; the vines grow to eight feet and are loaded with peas. The time to eat them is before the pod swells and the peas inside fatten. With the sun shining through you can see there are between 4 to 6 seeds in each pod. It’s too early to harvest the seeds at this stage. They are still too green and spongy soft. Later when the majority of pods have turned brown and slightly crispy the seeds will be ready to harvest. Collect them just before the pods become completely dried and burst.


borage, herbs Collecting borage seed is a little tricky. In this photo you can see the borage in the background has yellowed and matured, whereas the cluster in front still has blue flowers on it. I collect borage seeds as soon as the flowers fade, because seeds drop soon after. This way I get the seeds to drop into in my brown paper bag. It’s all in the timing with borage!


silverbeet It’s amazing that I can collect seeds from things that I didn’t even plant! The silverbeet and coriander volunteered from last year. I love volunteers because they always grow the best plants. You can understand why there are volunteers when you see how much seed is produced from this small number of plants.