Easy seed saving plants to save money and fill your garden

pink poppy
Long-time readers (hello, thank you for sticking with me) may know that I’ve been on a drive to live frugally and reduce my living costs and increase my output. There’s a long backstory there, but for the last year it’s all been about living frugally, even when it comes to growing my own veg and flowers. 

Around this time of year, August and September, is a perfect time to start collecting seeds from annuals to store and sow for next year. There are some really easy wins – plants that produce an abundance of seeds that are easy to collect, store well, and germinate freely the when sown – that will produce fantastic results when next year’s growing season is upon us. Based on my experience and my own thrifty garden, here are a few of my recommendations for the easiest plants to save seed from:

5 Flowers for Easy Seed Saving

poppy seed head

1. Poppies

Whether you like the ornamental opulence of opium poppies or prefer the bold simplicity of the field poppy, you can easily collect seed from the trinket-like rotund poppy heads. Simply take an envelope or empty seed packet, shake the contents of a dried poppy head, then label the packet and store. Alternatively, just shake the poppy heads and empty the seeds onto well-draining soil where you’d like new plants to grow. Chances are, they’ll germinate and reward you the following year with plenty of blooms.

Hollyhock flowers and seeds

2. Hollyhocks

The trumpet-like flowers put on a stellar display in late summer, and once faded, wilt and drop from the plant spire. Neatly packaged fuzzy circular seed pods remain, encasing the flat seed discs within. Once the seed pods dry and the seeds mature, the pods gently open. The seeds can be easily collected and stored, or scattered in situ in late summer and autumn.

Nigella seed pods and flowers

3. Nigella

The jewel-like delicate blooms of Nigella transform into fat pods in later summer and autumn, which are chock-full of seeds. The pods can be left in borders to add structural interest and texture, and will happily self seed. But if you want to spread the seed further afield, simply pick a fat pod and gently break it open. Inside you’ll find little chambers filled with tiny black nigella seeds which can be easily distributed amongst your borders, or collected into envelopes or seed packets for sowing when you’re ready.

allium flower head for seed saving

4. Alliums

The name ‘allium’ covers a plethora of flowers and plants from this family, but specifically I want to draw your attention to the likes of Allium hollandicum (Purple Sensation), and their edible siblings of sorts… chives (Allium schoenoprasum)! This year I’ve collected seeds from both types of allium, after they set seed once they’d finished blooming around early-mid summer. Wait for the flower heads to completely dry out… and then wait a little longer. The seeds can be collected by very gently pulling the flower heads from the stalks and tapping the seeds out into an envelope or seed packet.

Orange nasturtium flower

5. Nasturtiums

In recent years I’ve come to love nasturtiums, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I love how they ramble and scramble. I love how bold the flowers are, and how robust the plants are as a sacrificial companion plant. They might be chewed, munched and crunched by a multitude of insects, but they always bounce back with vim and vigour. They bloom for weeks on end, attract pollinators, and will thrive even in the poorest of soils. The seeds are produced once the flowers finish blooming, and will stay attached to the vine before they detach themselves and fall onto the soil under the plant. It’s at this point that you should collect the seeds – they’ll be chickpea-sized and at various points of drying out – and store them in a cool, dry place until the following spring. Plant the whole seed and its outer shell at least an inch into soil and wait for the magic to happen.


Pumpkin seed for saving

5 Fruit & Veg for Easy Seed Saving

1. Peas and Beans

Saving peas and beans for sowing is easy and very satisfactory too! Allow some of your bean or pea pods to start to dry out on the plant, before harvesting. Remove the beans/peas from the pods and leave out to completely dry out, before labelling and storing. YOu can store in envelopes or seed packets in a cool, dry space, or opt for air tight containers. Just make sure you’ve got a variety that will germinate from its seed, ie NOT an F1 variety. 

2. Tomatoes

Make sure you’re not saving the seed from a sterile F1/hybrid variety of tomato. Simply remove the seeds from the ripe fruit pulp, dry off on a piece of kitchen roll, and store/label until you’re ready to sow. Easy!

3. Squash/Pumpkins, Peppers & Melons

As with tomatoes, extract the seeds from a ripe fruit, dry them out and store. Remember to choose fruit from the most prolific, thriving plants. Seed drying should take roughly a week, and make sure the seeds are spaced out so that they don’t clump and stick together. Store, label and sow the following spring.

4. Lettuce and Greens

These vegetables, if not hybrid varieties (F1), will produce viable seed on the plants if a few plants are left unharvested and allowed to go to seed (bolt). Once the seed heads have begun to dry out, to collect seed from these veggies, stick a small paper bag over the seed heads, and then cut the heads off. Shake the plant heads to release the seed, and then label and store. 


Leave a few of your carrots to flower (the pollinators love them) before the flower heads dry out and go to seed. Cut off the flower head, tap the seed into an envelope, and keep dry. 

A little note on storage

Most seeds can be initially air dried and kept in a paper envelope. However, to ensure that excess moisture doesn’t spoil the seeds, you can keep them in a container with good ventilation (think: old tights secured and tied up) on dessicated medium like rice to help absorb any excess moisture. This will help keep the seeds dry and prevent them from burning through their energy stores, which are needed for healthy germination.

Seed Shoestring Budgeting: a £20 spend

The seed catalogues have been arriving in earnest and I’ve starting idly thumbing through them. I need to sit down and have a proper planning session, and decide what seeds to grow this year in the flower borders and the vegetable patches. There are some really fantastic new specimens around, including some stunning dahlias in Sarah Raven’s catalogue. But I must be disciplined – my seed spend has got to be done a shoestring for 2018!

This year I’ve got a small seed spending budget; around £20. This includes buying things like seed potatoes, onion sets and any packets of flower seeds that I decide on. I was given some gardening vouchers for my birthday, and I want to spend them wisely. As ever, I’ve got to be realistic – having a toddler who hasn’t got through the putting-everything-in-her-mouth stage (and who always finds a way to go somewhere or do something she’s not supposed to) doesn’t afford me much time in the garden at all. So I want to avoid otherwise simple but time-consuming things like potting on, if I can help it. And I need reliable growers that don’t need buckets of TLC to survive! Then there’s budgeting for the long-lasting companion plants like nasturtiums and marigolds…

shallots in the greenhouse

There’s one thing that I am set on already, though. This year I really want to try again with shallots. I ADORE cooking with shallots, but whilst my homegrown efforts always taste great, they seem a bit miserly compared to the bags of big banana shallots that I like to buy in bulk. I also like to have some homegrown potatoes too. Picasso and Charlotte are my go-to potatoes, so I might try finding space for one or the other. Or both. I’m still on the fence about whether to do onions. I haven’t had much success with them over the last three or four years. Again, they taste wonderful, but the actual size and yield has been woeful. I need to look into feeding again and make sure that I’m on top of any feed schedules for this year, otherwise I just shouldn’t bother!

Morning light

The only exception to my rule about fuss-free growing, are Spanish Flag flowers (ipomoea lobata). The first year I grew them, they were a stonking success, but in the two attempts since, they have been an abject failure. I suspect this is because I started them off too late and they prefer a long period of warmth and regular watering to flourish, neither of which they were serviced with over the last couple of growing seasons. But I still hang on to the memories of the arch covered in cascading, climbing vines that stood proud, adorned with flashes of cream, orange and flame red. I’d like to try again this year, to see if I can recapture the success of 2015. 

As I’m having to become ever more thrifty and manage my finances properly, I’m thinking about how to get more on a shoestring budget. Seed saving and cuttings are, of course, the first thing that come to mind. I might try taking some rosemary cuttings from my mum’s thriving plants, and lavendar from my own, and growing them on. This will have to happen a little later in the year when the plants are throwing out new growth, but it should save me a few pounds in the long run!

So my next task is to get my calculator out, get a pen and work out what I can do with £20, to get my growing season started… what’ve you got planned for this growing season?

What does chitting potatoes mean?

Chitting potatoes
It’s that time of year, when my kitchen windowsill fills with egg boxes full of chitting potatoes.

When I began growing my own fruit and veg back in 2006, there were a whole host of horticultural terms and phrases that I had never come across before. Throughout the last decade, I’ve picked up a fair amount of knowledge (I don’t think you ever stop learning and adapting when you’re growing your own), and a bit of a gardening vocabulary as well.

One of the first definitions I picked up was ‘chitting potatoes’.

In short, chitting potatoes means leaving them out in a cool, light space so that the potatoes can start to grow a few sprouts from the speck-like ‘eyes’. Chitting can usually start with earlies and main crop potato types from January or February, and usually a cooler windowsill with a sunny aspect will do. Always opt for seed potatoes (available online or from your local garden centre),  as these will be carefully bred and selected without diseases, and chit ‘blunt’ side up where you’ll likely find the most eyes for sprouting.

Whether you chose to chit your potatoes or not before planting them out when the soil is warm is entirely your choice. There is still an ongoing debate as to whether chitting actually helps the potatoes grow any stronger, faster or more prolifically. Me? I’m of the opinion that if you can give them a head start, then why not.