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Sow successful; The time is right to gather in the last seeds from the garden and prepare to use them for future blooms; Each week,TV's Carol Klein will be telling us what's been happening in her cottage garden...as well as hints and tips for you do it.

Byline: Carol Klein

If it stays dry long enough, all other activities will be abandoned this week while I dash out and collect the very last seeds from the garden.

It was my mum who first showed me how to find the big nasturtium seeds and pop them in a labelled paper bag.

Many children start their horticultural careers by pushing a few fat nasturtium seeds into the ground. If the soil is warm and moist, germination takes place within days – twin cotyledon leaves emerge and it's all Jack and the Beanstalk from there.

It's too late to collect nasturtiums now, but there are other kinds of seed around, such as calendula and cornflowers.

SEEDS FOR LIFE

We're used to thinking that seeds come in bright packets from the garden centre, but in the past, people saved their own.

It's thrilling to collect seeds from plants you grew, then use them to grow others.

Seeds need to be collected as close as possible to when the plant would naturally distribute them, so it should be dry.

If you've ever been close to a euphorbia on a hot August day, you will have heard the small explosions as capsules burst and seeds are catapulted into the air. There is a point at which the seed head of an opium poppy turns brown, its sides shrivel and holes appear at the top. When the plant is knocked, black seeds escape.

YOUR COLLECTOR'S KIT

You'll need paper bags, envelopes, a pen and a pair of scissors or secateurs. In most cases, the whole seed head is collected.

Grasses with dense heads, such as melica altissima, can be cut and collected whole in bags. But with fine grasses, which have seeds spaced out along stems – such as stipa arundinacea or molinia – it's best to remove seeds by running your fingers along the stems.

With umbels (of the apiaceae family), from the translucent discs of bupleurum to fennel and anthriscus, or the domes and chalices of eryngium and astrantia, the best technique is to invert the seed heads whole in paper bags.

STORING AND SOWING

A key factor in successful seed storage is keeping out moisture.

For now, our seeds hang in paper bags in the shed, clipped together on a series of skirt hangers and kept out of direct sun.

Soon, we will clean our seeds and keep them in envelopes until sowing begins.

Some seeds, though, I can start to use straight away. I have been sowing a few things now where there are patches of soil already bare.

I'm literally throwing the seed around, not too thickly, and using one kind of seed per area – opium poppies, love–in–themist, cornflowers and calendulas.

ASK CAROL

Q I recently bought some bargain daffodils, but when I took them out of the net some of them had bluey–grey mould on them. Can I still plant them? Ruth Webster by email

A Ideally, any bulbs should be firm and free from blemishes. If the mould on your daffodils is superficial and you can peel off the outside skin to reveal a clean under–surface, and if the bulbs are solid, then they will probably be fine.

Q We've got a huge ash tree. Are we going to lose it to this sickness? Joe Masters by email

A The truth is that no one can predict just where ash dieback disease will strike. The only agreement is that its effects will be devastating. It is spread mainly through airborne spores on the leaves and it is easiest to spot in summer.

The three main signs are: leaves going brown at the tips long before autumn; long, weeping lesions on the bark and dieback in the crown from the top.

Got a gardening question for Carol? Email m.mcmonagle@sundaymail.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Seeds need to hang up and dry in paper bags.Top,calendula seeds can be sown now.Above,an opium poppy releasing its seeds

Carol collects the last seeds in bags
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 2, 2012
Words:677
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