Search Results: Seed saving

Thoughts on Seed Saving

Thoughts on Seed Saving

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 

Seed Saving – Basil

Seed Saving – Basil

Ah. End of summer. Time to harvest the basil… and the basil seeds!   To many people basil is THE one herb to have in the kitchen garden. And it is also the one plant most often requested from the nursery at the start of Spring. With 

Seed Saving – Umbelliferous plants (think Parsley, Fennel & Dill)

Seed Saving – Umbelliferous plants (think Parsley, Fennel & Dill)

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.

Umbel infloresence
Umbel inflorescence






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.

Parsley seed
Parsley seed
Mitsuba seed
Mitsuba seed
Coriander seed
Coriander seed
Dill seed
Dill seed
Saved dill seeds
Saved dill seeds

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…


Seed Saving – Lettuce Seeds

Seed Saving – Lettuce Seeds

Many people see the tall upright stalks of bolting lettuce as unattractive and unruly in a garden, and with the lettuce leaves becoming tougher and more bitter as the plant goes to seed, it is generally a sign to pull them out and make space 

Seed Saving – Tomato Seeds

Seed Saving – Tomato Seeds

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 

Seed Saving – Sunflower Seeds

Seed Saving – Sunflower Seeds

Quintessential to a perfect vegetable and herb garden (I think!) are the beautiful large bright yellow heads of sunflowers!

Pompom sunflowers
Pompom Sunflowers
Moulin Rouge Sunflower
Moulin Rouge Sunflower
Russian Giant Sunflower
Spent sunflower
Spent sunflower







Besides their happy looks, they are quite useful too, sunflowers –

Monarch on sunflower

>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:

Yellowing back of seed head
1. Yellowing back of seed head
Dry seed heads
2. Dry seed heads
Rub off left over flower parts
3. Rub off left over flower parts
Rub out seeds
4. Rub out seeds









  1. 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.
  2. Be sure to leave the seed heads in a dry and well ventilated area for the seeds to dry and harden.
  3. Brush off the spent inflorescence.
  4. 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!



March in the garden

March in the garden

While March can still be hot, weather traditionally becomes a bit more variable as we enter our first month of autumn. Following on from a warm and dry February, weather forecasters are predicting an increase in humidity, moisture and rainfall for March – if these 



What did I say last week about it not being hot? Was I out of my mind?! Goodness me, this past week had some scorching temperatures (I’m Auckland based)… and no rain to speak of… So how do you water when it’s hot? I prefer 

Week in Retrospect : 8 JAN 2018 – 14 JAN 2018

Week in Retrospect : 8 JAN 2018 – 14 JAN 2018

We are Open

While I know this is supposed to be a retrospective post, I feel it will be remiss if I don't add that today, 15 January, officially marks the opening of MeadowSweet Herbs & Flowers for 2018.  🙂

North Shore Herb Group

If you've missed the news - I'll be taking on the community interest group for herbs on the North Shore of Auckland! 

I've managed to secure a lovely new venue for our group. For more informatio see our Facebook page for more details.

I have a lovely history with the North Shore Herb Group, and feel very happy and excited to be running it! 

Long ago, and far away... about 8 years ago, and just over 12,000km away... I had a little herb shop and nursery and did a newsletter which got picked up and subscribed to by a lady in New Zealand. Turns out the lady was the then president and convener of the Auckland Herb Society. I was very chuffed indeed to find a address on my subscriber's list as we had already started our plans to move to this new country... Long story short, I e-mailed her directly, and we became good friends over the long distance and our shared love of herbs. When I finally arrived in NZ, I was happy to settle in Albany and to finally meet her face-to-face and join in with her wonderful Herb Group on the North Shore. I've been part of the North Shore Herb Group ever since.

To plant by the moon, or not to plant by the moon

Moon calendar planting is often scoffed at, and on the other hand sometimes even given magical credence... and I've been asked about it often. Here's a few FAQ's around it...

Do I garden by the moon?

Yes, I do follow the moon calendar for planting. But here is the qualifier: *as much as I can*. This means that I don't only ever sow above-ground crops in the week or so following New Moon. Life sometimes have different plans, and maybe you can't get to your seeds or garden when the calendar says you should, and I for one, don't always want to wait another 4 weeks (for the next "fertile period") to put my seeds in when I didn't quite manage to do so in the moon allocated time.

Why do I garden by the moon?

It is a great tool for me to schedule tasks in my garden, and give me a routine to work with. Otherwise gardening can become a bit-of-this and bit-of-that affair without any real focus or strategy. If I block off certain times of a month for certain tasks, I find more gets done, and I feel calmer about it all too. And if I am going to schedule my to-do, then I may as well do it according to moon calendar.

Does it work?

The theory around moon gardening works on 2 main principles, as far as I understand it at least - the main one being water and the moon's gravitational effect on it, and the other is light.

Now anyone who lives near the sea, understands and experiences first-hand, the pull that the moon has on the bodies of water on our planet (tides). So too, says the moon-calender proponents, will it have an effect on the sap of the plant, the water molecules in the soil, and the water table. 

The other is that light affects germination, and with the increase of light after New Moon (the dark period), seeds may germinate better (at least the ones that need light to germinate).

I have found that although seeds will germinate and grow almost anytime, sowing and planting according to the moon calendar gives me better germination rates, faster sprouting times, stronger seedlings and healthier plants. The difference isn't a shocking or awe-inspiring one, but there definitely is a benefit to growing by the ideal moon phases.

In the nursery

Now that I've cleared up that I do normally plant by the moon, but also plant at other times when I have missed an ideal period according to the moon calendar, let's look at what I managed to sow this past week. I'm very excited to find great germination rates and times! Looking forward to an abundant late summer, early autumn. 


  • Honeywort - Pride of Gibralta
  • Masterwort - Astrantia 
  • Hyssop 
  • Cleome
  • Fenugreek
  • Lesser Calamint
  • Chervil
  • Salad purslane
  • Parsley - Flat Leaf Italian
  • Zinnia
  • Dill
  • Ice Cream Bean (Inga Bean)
  • Gaillardia - Burgundy
  • Spring onion
  • Dahlia - Unwins Bedding Mix
  • Dahlia- Sunny Raggae
  • Marhshmallow
  • Anise hyssop - Blue
  • Armenian Basketflower
  • Hollyhocks - Dwarf Lemon, Ebony Towers, Mix, Yellow, Red,  Apricot White
  • Chives
  • Garlic chives
  • Coreopsis - Dwarf Red Amulet 
  • Coreopsis - Plains 
  • Lettuces - Lollo rosso, Danyelle, Rouge d'Hiver, Mix Leaf
  • English Lavender
  • Sunflower - Bronzes


In the garden

New additions to my garden... because aren't they just SO pretty!? 

I was hoping to save seed and be able to offer the coreopsis and gaillardia in the nursery at some point, but I think they may both be hybrids (need to do some more research), so the seed may not come true to type. Still going to try though! I honestly loved the flowers from the seed I saved from my Moulin Rouge sunflowers, and they were F1 hybrids. Always worth taking a chance, I reckon!

Coreopsis, Dwarf Mango Orange

Gaillardia, Arizona apricot

Salvia gregii, Deep Pink

Ajuga, Pink Spire
























Now, as neither the salvia nor the ajuga is listed with the NZ PVR register, I can definitely add them to my nursery list as soon as they are big enough to propagate from! 

I've also put into my garden some of the plants from the nursery that have reached their best-by date - hopefully they still thrive and provide for lots of seed for MeadowSweet:

Bee balm, lemon

Coreopsis, Plains


Harvests continue pretty much the same as last week, except I have a few more yellow zucchini, and lots more tomatoes, and a lovely big rampicante zucchini too! The chillies are now ripening beautifull, and I've harvested Cayanetta and Hungarian Hot Wax this week.

I'm still getting cucumber, cocozelle zucchini, beans, spring onion, tomatoes, and lots of culinary herbs - marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, basil, mint, chives, and thyme. 

Edible flowers I have harvested this past few days include calendula, bergamot, sunflower, dianthus, cornflower, viola, starfire marigold, chives, rosemary, and scented pelargonium.

Seed Saving

There is a lot of plants going to seed now, and one of my busiest times for seed saving is just about to start!

Heads of sunflowers heavy with seeds bow down in the wind, and fluffs from lettuce seed heads gives the garden a misty look. This past week I've also saved seeds of:

  • Gaillardia, Arizona sun
  • Forget-me-not, Chinese (pink)
  • Sweetpeas, tall (various colours)
  • Sweetpeas, dwarf (pink and purple)
  • Nigella (love in the mist)
  • Purple tomatillo
  • Tomato, lots of different varieties.
  • Lettuce, drunken woman fringed head
  • Lettuce, freckles
  • Marigold, starfire mix

Sunflower seed head

Lettuce seeds


Made from the Garden

Deliciousness straight from the garden... yes, lots of tomatoes, because "Tomato Season!" 🙂

Eggbake - with NZ spinach and herbs from the garden, made with our own quail eggs, and home-made ricotta.

A humble lunch - tomato and cheese sandwich with a red-gold-green heirloom tomato medley

Cooling herb tea with lemon balm, lemon verbena and pepper mint

Herbed cherry tomatoes ready for the dehydrator

Homemade tomato pizza - with a base heirloom tomato sauce and freshly picked basil.



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