Our GardenSharing

Seed harvesting 101 – herbs and flowers

flowers seeds

Did you know that flowers and herbs grow stronger when planted from your own seed rather than from commercial seedlings?

As explained by growers of Il Lavandeto di Assisi – the largest lavender and herb nursery in Umbria – most producers tend to super-feed plants to make them bloom fast. This happens especially when a winter has been very cold and frost carries into spring. However, once these plants no longer receive extra feeding to boost their growth – like when they get to a new home – they tend to fade away quickly.

To avoid this, you can learn how to grow your plants independently from self-harvested seeds. This method is the simplest, oldest and most natural. A method that our grandparents used to ensure plant reproduction and resilience when commercial seeds or seedlings were not common.

How, then, do you get started on harvesting seeds from flowers?

  • Cut a few flowers from the mother plant and let them dry out in a cool dark spot.
  • Once the petals are brown and the flowers are fading, put them in a paper bag.
  • Shake the bag gently to allow the tiny seeds to dislodge from their bed. Better yet, have your kids dislodge a few seeds – it’s a great learning experience for them!
  • Empty the paper bag carefully and separate the seeds from other debris.
  • Store seeds in a cool spot in a glass jar or paper bag.

And how do you harvest seeds from herbs?

  1. Wait for the plant to produce flowers.
  2. Let these dry out on the plant. You will see these go from bright green or white to yellow, then to brown.
  3. Once the flowers turn brown, cut them from the plant and put them in a paper bag.
  4. Shake the bag gently to allow the tiny seeds to dislodge from their bed.
  5. Empty the paper bag carefully and separate the seeds from other debris.
  6. Store seeds in a cool spot in a glass jar or paper bag.

In both cases of flowers and herbs, you will have an abundance of seeds harvested and will probably not be able to replant all of them. Last but not least, several seeds – like lavender – have a short lifespan (two years). So you need to share your seeds and ensure these are not wasted.

What are the best ways to do so?

  • Find a local farmer’s market where seed exchange is practiced. There are many benefits to doing this: you get to choose what of your harvest to give away and what new seeds to take home with you; your kids will have a blast learning about different seed varieties, and you will also find a community of people that truly appreciate the simplicity and beauty of a life of sharing.
  • Replant the seeds in small containers which can be distributed to just about anyone. Try small pots, biodegradable egg cartons, recycled bamboo cups – anything with a few holes on the bottom that will allow the soil to breathe.

Enjoy the happiness that comes from being part of the circle of life!

Seed sharing at the farmers’ market in Rome, Italy
Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Planter-in-Chief

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I’m an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here – with your help – where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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