Autumn provides us with a rich bounty of berries, fruits, nuts and seeds. For me there’s something quite comforting, almost primeval, about gathering and storing food at this time of year. All through September and October you’ll find me alternating between garden countryside and kitchen picking, foraging and preserving. There’ll be sloe gin, jams, pickles, sloe gin, dried fruit and herbs – oh and did I mention my favourite? sloe gin?
One thing I haven’t tried yet, despite having cared for the same patch of land for over 30 years, is gathering wild flower seed and using it to populate my own little mini-meadow.
Poppy seed heads are easily identified and gathering the seed is everso easy, just shake the contents of these pepperpots into a paper bag (always use paper bags or envelopes to store seed – never plastic)
Reseeding Is An Essential Part Of Meadow Maintenance
My little mini wildflower meadow was started 6 years ago using Meadowmat wild flower matting. It’s done me proud over the years and even turned me into a beekeeper but this summer I noticed that there were fewer flowers and more grasses. If I don’t want it to revert to an untidy mess, I need to redress the balance.
I could add in some plug plants or I could overseed it. I’m going to try seed this autumn – and I’m planning on harvesting my own seed from other parts of my garden and from hedges and verges around my husband’s farm.
What Is The Law On Gathering Wildflower Seed?
In the UK it is absolutely 100% against the law, illegal, immoral and very naughty indeed to dig up any wild flower plants. But, provided you do so in moderation, and for your own use (not to sell) it’s OK to gather the four F’s. Flowers, Fruit, Fungi and Foliage.
The wildflower society offers sensible advice in its code of conduct.
“Collecting wild flower seed for private gardening must also be done sparingly and only common species should be gathered.”
How To Gather Wildflower Seed
Now that has been clarified – I can forage quite happily but only gather very small amounts of seed. I don’t need much anyway. A little goes a long way!
Maggie and I looking for wildflower seeds by kind permission of a local farmer
I do know most of the farmers and landowners in the area and I’m pretty sure all but about 2 of them will be happy for me to gather bits and pieces from their hedges – but I’ll ask permission anyway because I don’t want to create any bad feeling. Some of them will be nurturing wildflower margins for farm wildlife. Margins cost farmers a lot of money to set up and manage. They won’t want anyone and everyone to wander in and nick their seed!
What Equipment Do You Need To Gather Seed?
- A pair of scissors or secateurs,
- Gloves for negotiating nettles and brambles
- Paper bags or envelopes
- Sticky tape
All I’m going to do is identify the plant
- a) to ensure I’m not taking seed from anything rare or endangered and
- b) to make sure it is something I want growing in my garden
Then I need to make sure the seed is ripe. Usually that means that the seed head or pod is brown, dry and easily popped open.
Wild flower seed heads, I can see plantain and clover but the ones I really want are from the yellow rattle in the foreground.
Yellow rattle helps to keep grasses under control. Seed must be sown fresh in autumn – sow it in spring and it won’t grow.
After that I shall snip off the whole seedhead, pop it in a paper bag, seal the bag with sticky tape and label it.
When I get home, I shall clean the seed – ie take out all the old bits of stalk, pod and other debris before putting it back in its named bag and storing it in the fridge until I’m ready to sow it.