Get to know your seeds

With fully-grown plants so easy to buy, you might forget that their lives actually begin as tiny seeds.

Harvesting, storing and planting your own seeds can be much cheaper and satisfying than buying mature plants.

"Seeds are a very cost-effective way to start plants," says Angie Thomas, a horticulture consultant for Yates. "Just one handful of seeds can grow dozens of seedlings and you can grow the exact the number of plants you need when you need them."

Here's how to harvest, store and sow seeds from your own garden.

Harvesting seeds

You should harvest seeds on a dry day, once a plant's seedpods have ripened. Seeds will generally ripen about two months after they've flowered. You can tell they're ripe by a change in colour: From green to brown or black to red. 

Use sharp scissors to snip off the ripe seedpods and heads, being careful to only collect from your best plants to ensure the seed quality is high and viable for re-planting.

Leave the seedheads to dry inside, in a spot that's not too hot or cold. Once they're dry, the seedheads should open, allowing you to easily remove seeds. If they're still closed, you can carefully crush the pods to extract their seeds.

Before storing your harvest, clean away any other material attached to the seedpod to avoid pests and mould and damp growing, by either rinsing them in water or picking the material out by hand.

You can harvest seeds from nearly any plant: From sunflowers and sprouts to peas and poppies.

Storing seeds

While some seeds are best planted immediately, most will require storing until they're ready for sowing during a particular time of year.

Keeping your seeds in plastic can spoil them, so store them in paper envelopes or brown paper bags labelled with the plant name and date harvested.

Place the bags into an airtight container - a glass jar is best - ideally with a desiccant like silica gel to ensure any excess water is absorbed.

Once they're all packaged up, pop them into the fridge and store them until they're ready to be sowed.

Sowing seeds

Do your research to find out the best time of year to plant each particular seed, then clear your garden bed of any weeds and debris, and rake the soil to create a level surface.

Lay the handle of your rake (or a shovel or broom) across your garden bed, and press it gently to create an impression in the soil, in which the seeds will be sown.

Water the soil in the row created by the rake handle and scatter the seeds thinly into the garden bed, then rake the soil over the seeds to cover them.

Use a stake to mark where the seeds have been sown so you don't forget where they are, labelling it with the name of the plant.

Whether you eat them whole or nurture them to grow whole new plants, seeds are an incredible natural resource.

Get more tips on how to sow your own seeds.

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