My world may seem to be a great big mess at the moment – my herb, flower and vegetable gardens look a bit ramshackle and dishevelled, and my dining room table is strewn with a cacophony of bags, boxes, baskets and buckets. And I can’t…
Search Results: seed saving
A great many of my umbelliferous plants are going to flower now and seed now, making it a perfect time to save seeds for new plantings. You probably have some umbelliferae in your garden too! It is a big word, for a big family, but it basically means fragrant plants that have an upside down umbrella-like flower.
A quick botany lesson
Plants belonging to the umbelliferae family are known as the carrot or parsley family, and make up a group of mostly aromatic herbs. A defining characteristic of these plants are that they flower in a simple or compound umbel. An umbel is a flower made up of a number of short, equal in length, flower stalks radiating from a single point – see images below.
Umbelleferae in your garden
Now that you see what it looks like, you can probably identify a couple of herbs in your garden that fall into this family – here is a list of just a few that are commonly grown:
- Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
- Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
- Caraway (Carum carvi)
- Carrot (Daucus carota)
- Celery (Apium graveolens)
- Chervil (Antrhiscus cerefolium)
- Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)
- Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)
- Dill (Anethum graveolens)
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
- Parsnip (Pastanica sativum)
Besides saving seeds, or letting your herbs self-sow, there is also another important reason to let these plants bolt (grow a flower stalk to produce umbels, and eventually seeds) – and this reason is apparent in their alternative family name Apiaceae. Apis = bees. Bees love to forage on the flower nectar, and the umbels are also great spots for other beneficial insects to rest, refuel and hide.
How to harvest umbelliferae seeds
Harvesting seeds from these plants are really easy, as the umbels of flowers ripen into clearly distinctive seeds which can easily be rubbed off when ripe. I wait until the seeds are ripe (browning or darkening) on the plant and just pinch a bunch between my thumb and fingers and rub them – seeds that are ripe will easily come off, and can be caught in a bag or your other open hand. Alternatively, the whole umbel head can be cut off and shaken into a bag. Keep saved seed in a cool and dry place until you are ready to sow them.
A note on safety with umbellifereae
There are some really poisonous plants in the carrot family too, e.g. poison hemlock and water dropwort, so don’t harvest umbellifereae from the wild…
Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! It is probably the one must-grow plant for almost every vegetable gardener. And growing tomatoes is tremendously rewarding – not only do you get an abundant supply of vine fresh tomatoes, but you can also preserve your summer crop bounty to enjoy deep into…
Quintessential to a perfect vegetable and herb garden (I think!) are the beautiful large bright yellow heads of sunflowers!
Besides their happy looks, they are quite useful too, sunflowers –
>attract a host of beneficial insects such as bumblebees, bees and monarch butterflies to your garden.
> they are fabulous for kids’ gardens! Why not have a sunflower growing competition in the family? Or grow a sunflower house (a task I’m putting to myself for this coming late summer).
> have edible petals, try them in salads for some colour
> have edible seeds, use in baking, salads, or eat them straight up for an energy rich snack
> make sturdy support poles for vine plants while they grow – e.g. sweet peas, and even tomatoes and cucumbers can have a lean-to on a sunflower stalk
> are great companion plants for swan plants (mutually beneficial), peppers, corn, tomatoes, watermelon, lettuce, cucumber and squash. Avoid pototoes and beans though…
Now that my first plantings of summer sunflowers have lost their large outer petals and are nodding their heads down, it is time to harvest the seeds. Follow me through these steps to harvest and save your own sunflower seeds:
- When sunflower seed heads turn downward, and the backs turn from green to a yellow or a brown colour, they are ready to harvest. Cut the seed head off with secateurs, leaving a few centimeters of stem attached.
- Be sure to leave the seed heads in a dry and well ventilated area for the seeds to dry and harden.
- Brush off the spent inflorescence.
- Loosen seeds by rubbing the seeds in a circular motion. Once some has come out, the rest are easier to loosen and drop out.
Note – if you want to grow seeds from your sunflowers, I have read that it is best to use the outer seeds, which are larger than the inner seeds. Save your seeds in a dry, airtight and cool environment until you are ready to use them.
Enjoy your sunflowers!
Notoriously the hottest summer month, and also one of the driest months, February can be challenging in the garden. Besides the weather, it is also a time of plants maturing, with many annual and biennial herbs going to flower and seed. This bolting may make the garden…