By Anica James, Master Gardener in Training
With the autumn equinox right around the corner, this is the perfect time of year to be collecting seeds. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find seed collecting both rewarding and therapeutic. There is something about spending an intimate amount of time with different plant species, getting to know them and discover how the plant truly grew. It’s amazing that something as tall and beautiful as a Foxglove grows from the tiniest of seeds. Whether you are collecting seeds from fruits and vegetables, wildflowers, ornamental flowers, grasses or trees, you will notice that each seed has various characteristics that make it unique.
I always carry a pen for labeling, a big stack of envelopes, usually a pair of secateurs or snips, and sometimes paper lunch bags for larger seeds. I go for a meditative walk through the woods or around my yard, carefully collecting my stash, labeling the envelopes or bags, and bringing them home for extra drying time. For some seeds I use a sieve to take off any chaff that is still clinging on, and then I weigh everything out on my scale and divide certain seeds up into packages I make out of old scraps of paper (vintage National Geographic magazines are my favourite to use). Before the pandemic started, there was an annual Seedy Sunday event held every March in Peterborough; keep your eyes and ears peeled for future dates because this is a great place to meet other seed collectors and swap findings.
I encourage you to go for a walk around your property or nearby country road and collect your own seeds because not only is it a fun and free way to help you grow different plants on your own, but you can also share or sell any leftover seeds you have. Some of my favourite native varieties to collect are:
Aquilegia canadensis, wild columbine
Asclepsias tuberosa, butterfly weed
Aster novae-angliae, New England aster
Coreopsis lanceolata, lanceleaf coreopsis
Dalea purpurea, purple prairie clover
Monarda fistulosa, wild bergamot
Rudbeckia hirta, black-eyed Susan
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, aromatic aster
Another thing that I like to do is create seed bombs that I can use for guerilla gardening projects. Seed bombs are a great activity to do with kids and it encourages them to get messy and add to the beauty of this world. I personally like to “bomb” public areas around commercial properties and newly built subdivisions with wildflower seeds, anything to bring some life back into the beige-grey landscape.
Materials you will need:
- Wildflower seeds or seeds collected from the garden
- Peat-free compost.
- Powdered clay (found in craft shops); some people also use cat litter
- A bowl to mix everything in
- A tray to dry the seed bombs on
How to build your bombs:
- In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of seeds with 5 cups of compost and 2-3 cups of clay powder.
- Slowly mix in water with your hands until everything sticks together. It should have the same texture and consistency as muffin batter (kids love this because it’s like making slime)
- Roll the mixture into firm, even balls and then leave the balls to dry in a sunny or warm spot
- Once they are dry, plant your seed bombs by throwing them at bare parts of the garden or land and wait to see what pops up! (I usually like to time my guerrilla plantings with the rain).
If you are interested in learning more about seed saving locally, Jill Bishop from Nourish has some great reference material and sometimes offers workshops, especially to those who are members of local community gardens. https://nourishproject.ca/basics-seed-saving
Seeds of Diversity is another great resource https://seeds.ca/