The first four weeks of autumn is seed gathering season and whether you are collecting flower, vegetable or tree seeds, many can be planted now, while others can be stored and labelled for planting next year.
Flower and vegetable seeds
Most seeds are ready to collect when they have turned from green to brown and would naturally be about to fall or spread. Shake small flower seeds directly into envelopes or paper bags. Dry out vegetable seeds completely before storing in a dry, cool place for spring. It’s always worth trying the seeds from your favourite apple of the season, the best pumpkin in the crop and the tallest sunflower of the summer.
Tree seeds like acorns, conkers and beech masts, that may otherwise be eaten or land in the wrong conditions to germinate, can be planted and given some protection. Check which ones are most likely to grow by putting them in water first; the seeds that sink are the good ones, and the ones that float can be discarded. They can usually be planted straight away, giving a chance to get roots started in the still warm soil, before the winter and frosts set in. Pop a pinecone into soil, give a little water and the seeds snuggly tucked inside will begin to take root and sprout. A great start to growing your own future forest.
Harvesting with care
Collect seeds with your natural neighbours in mind; the birds, mice and other mammals that rely on gathering their own harvest every autumn will need enough to see them through the winter months. Jays and squirrels will be busy hiding tree seeds, some of which will be forgotten and start blooming in the spring alongside your own.