Grow, forage, cook: saving seeds (and free seed envelope template)

Vintage style seed envelopes: free download | Wolves in London
Seed collecting: like foraging in your own garden…

Far be it from me to deny the joys of veg gardening (of which there are many, even in years of disappointing harvest) but I have to confess that one of my absolute favourite benefits of growing your own is the chance to get something for nothing.

Yes, it is just quite possible I am a massive skinflint, but it makes me very happy to spend a pound or two on a packet of seeds and then enjoy fresh tomatoes for the entire summer months.

And saving and storing some seeds from said tomatoes to grow a full summer’s worth the following year entirely for free is enough to put a beam on your face throughout the whole of a miserable dark winter…

So it is, around this time of year, I head out into the garden and collect seeds from anything I’d like to grow again.

Honesty seed cases |Wolves in London
Honesty seed cases; remove seeds and stick in a vase for winter. Heaven

Of course, at the same time as I’m collecting seeds, I should be taking the opportunity to do a bit of weeding, sweep down the paths, get the greenhouse ready for the winter and so on and so on. But no, I find these maintenance tasks a little boring, so instead I’ve been square-eyed in front of the laptop, making some rather attractive seed envelopes to store all my seeds in.  (Even if I do say so myself.)

Free seed packet download | Wolves in London
Envelopes wot I made mesself

There’s one for fruit, one for veg and one for flowers. The images, as ever, are from the wonderful Graphics Fairy website (check it out if you’re a fan of vintage pictures). I’ve used a botanical rose illustration (of course, you’d be highly unlikely to actually harvest rose seeds, I should point out, but I just really liked the picture), this botanical pea illustration for the veg and this botanical apple illustration for fruit (again, don’t actually go collecting apple pips, not only would it take you years to get a tree, but they wouldn’t be the same as the original tree anyway).

If you’d like to make some envelopes of your own, by all means go ahead! Just click on the image below to download a pdf that contains all three templates.

[NB, On my laptop, when I click on the link it shows me the document with all the Ss missing. If yours is the same, just download and save it to your computer first and you’ll see it in all its glory. How these things happen, I do not know. Before printing, check the settings are for “actual size” and landscape…]

Free printable seed envelopes | Wolves in London

Once you’ve got the envelopes, you’ll need something to put inside them. Here’s a few pointers if you’re trying seed collecting for the first time:

Poppy seeds | Wolves in London
Poppies: the easiest seeds to collect.
  • Different plants produce seeds in different ways, requiring different harvesting techniques. The easiest to collect are those flowers that store their seeds in something akin to a salt cellar, in order to shake them out once they’re ready. Flowers like poppies, snapdragons or love-in-a-mist all do this. To collect the seeds, just shake the seedhead onto a piece of paper, or straight into the envelope, and your seeds are ready.
  • Peas and beans (including sweet peas) are also very easy to harvest. Make sure you leave a few on the plant long enough for the seed to ripen. The outer bean part will turn brown, the seeds will start to dry and shrivel up and, once ready, should be easily removed. Dry for a day or two longer on some kitchen paper to be sure they’re completely dehydrated and then store til next year.
  • For soft fruit and veg, like tomatoes, you need to wait until the fruit is ripe, which means the seed will be ready, then just mash up the fruit a bit and remove the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to put the fruit and some water into a bottle or jar and shake it well until it has separated. If necessary, leave for a few days or up to a week. Remove the seeds, dry them completely on a piece of kitchen paper and store.
  • Almost all seed should be stored in a cool and dry environment. Wrap in clingfilm to keep out the moisture, then put inside an envelope (or, of course, my lovely new seed packets!)
  • Different seeds are viable (ie capable of germination) for different amounts of time. On the whole, most seeds will do well to be used within a few years. Label the date of your seed collections so you can try and use them as soon as possible.
  • Lots of fruit / veg nowadays is grown from seeds known as F1 hybrids. I won’t go into the science of this as it’s a bit complicated, but it basically means that the resultant plant is likely to be stronger, healthier, less prone to pests and diseases and will crop uniformly and heavily. All sounds great, right? The only thing is, seeds collected from the plants grown from F1 hybrids won’t grow true to their parent. So, when you’re buying seeds, check whether it says F1 hybrid on the pack. If so, it’s probably not worth bothering collecting the seed from these plants, but better to just buy them again the following year.
  • Finally, a word of warning, certain seeds have what’s known as an inbuilt dormancy, that means they won’t germinate until certain environmental external conditions have been met. The most common of which is a drop in temperature. (In the wild, this means the seed doesn’t grow at the wrong time of year – it waits for winter to be over, for example…) It’s best to do a double check online for seeds before planting them, just to make sure you won’t need to fake the necessary environmental conditions before planting. (If you’ve stored the seed inside your centrally heated house, it won’t know that winter has been and gone, so you might need to put it into the fridge for a week or two to trick it into thinking it has…) Don’t be put off by this though, most seeds are fine to chuck straight into the ground – or a nicely prepared seed tray – but it’s definitely worth checking in advance to avoid disappointment if they don’t grow…

I hope you enjoy the seed packets. Please do share photos of any seed collecting you’re up to, or any other growing, foraging or cooking by using the hashtag #growforagecook on instagram or twitter, or just leave a comment here!

[Grow, forage, cook is a series I run with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, where we share some of our successes (and failures) with homegrown, foraged (or just bought!) seasonal food. We’d love it if you’d join in too. Every month we publish a round-up of our favourite Grow, forage, cook captures. Check out last month’s over on Circle of Pine Trees: August round up.]

Free seed packet download | Wolves in London

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24 thoughts on “Grow, forage, cook: saving seeds (and free seed envelope template)

  1. it really does only takes seconds. well maybe not the tomatoes but flower seeds and beans and peas take only seconds. I just got back from the cabin where I collected seeds from cosmos flowers and really it doesn’t take long and it is so fun to have those seeds to grow in the spring. I also swapped seeds with friends and today saw some of my flowers in their gardens through the magic of the internet. I swapped with other gardeners through a natural dye forum and now we are growing flowers from each others garden and experimenting with our fabric and yarn. I have marigolds from a friend in Denmark and hollyhocks from a friend in Scotland. what fun ; )
    now I will have some pretty seed packets to use next year. usually I print just a picture of the flower in my garden with a little info on how to use it.
    ps maybe you would like to exchange some cosmos seeds ; )

    1. Oooh, yes, let’s do a seed exchange! I have poppies here (though I’m not sure exactly what kind as I scrumped them from a park) and lots and lots and lots of love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) and some sweet peas too. Do any of those sound appealing?

  2. Brilliant, I am more excited than you can imagine about trying to collect some seeds, trouble is that we don’t have any flower heads in the garden so I am going to have to go undercover around the neighbourhood and “borrow” some.

  3. Oh Wow! These are so gorgeous! I was thinking of making my own seed packets a few moths back but never got round to it. I love this idea and the graphics look so beautiful. Ill have to pin this and come back to it later as I’m heading into Spring and no seeds whatsoever for me to collect in the garden right now.

    1. I downloaded the packs to use when I can find some seeds. We have a lot of cactus here in New Mexico (U.S.) and haven’t quite figured out how to save seeds from those sticky plants. Got to have good thick gloves when working with them. I grow roses but have a bit of trouble with other plants because our ground is sandy and very dry.

  4. What utterly beautiful seed packets. I’ve never collected seeds before (gardening isn’t my forte) but you’ve made me want to now, just so I can use those packets! x

  5. Every year I collect seeds and then bung them in an old envelope that I sometimes forget to label. But this year I’m going to to make your beautiful envelopes. They’d be great to give as small presents too.

  6. I came from the Graphics Fairy site. I tried to print these packets, and found that the “S” was missing. Odd, but thank you anyway.

    1. Hi Fonda, Thanks for the comment — yes, there is some oddity if you open the file and try to print directly. If you just save it your computer first, then it comes up with the S as well!

  7. I just love the seed packs. You are very talented. Now I need to find out how to save some of our Cactus to share with others. Maybe I can get other plants that are good to grow in the dessert

  8. I’ve always just put mine in a #10 envelope so it was great to find your site following from The Graphics Fairy to your site. Thank you so much as this will be much cuter for my seed gatherings. Thanks a bunch for your generosity.

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