Collecting seeds

The collection of seeds from trees and shrubs by the gardener has a number of advantages over buying in seeds.

The gardener knows the identity of the plant and that it is reasonably hardy, and he can have a clear idea of what conditions suit a particular species, having seen it growing. As so many aliens and exotics are of doubtful hardiness this is a worthwhile consideration, especially as purchased seeds probably come from a more southerly collection. A hardy parent does not necessarily produce hardy offspring, but it is more likely.

Another advantage is that the gardener can collect seeds at the moment he deems correct

Use a long-arm pruner to cut down cones. Stand at an angle so that the cones do not fall directly on to you.

—a situation that is of critical importance when green seeds are being collected to avoid a dormancy condition.

Seeds that have been collected, processed and sown without drying will not suffer losses in viability.

Finally the gardener has the advantage of choosing where he collects his seeds, and he should take them from those specimens which are regarded as desirable forms and are free from pests and diseases. Because the seeds may be the result of a chance pollination, it is not possible to expect seeds to come true, but at least, by attempting to provide a better genetic base, good forms have an increased chance of being produced.

Seeds or fruits should always be collected in prime condition, and at all stages it is important to be able to identify the seeds. Therefore label all containers used for collecting, recording not only the name of the parent plant but also the place of origin and the date of collection so that this information may be used for comparisons. The label should always accompany a seed lot until it is sown, when the information should be

Tie a seed-collecting bag round your waist so both hands are left free to stretch into trees for possible seeds.

transferred to a permanent label. Always write labels with indelible ink.

Seeds that are green or bulky should not be collected in large batches or be kept in the containers for too long as they are very prone to "heat up" and this can very easily cause the embryo to die. These seeds and fruits should, therefore, be stored in small batches in polythene bags and kept cool in a refrigerator. Process and sow as quickly as possible.

Large cones should be cut one at a time.

When collecting seeds it is useful to have both hands free, especially if it is necessary to stretch into trees. For this purpose a collecting bag is invaluable. This can be made very simply by cutting off the top half from a plastic fertilizer or compost sack. Tie two pieces of string to the upper corners of the remaining bottom half and then secure this around the waist. This kind of collecting bag is far superior to a basket or bucket as it is not bulky and will not get in the way. Do not substitute a hessian sack because squashy and fleshy fruits may soak through the hessian into the gardener's clothing—an unpleasant and (literally) irritating experience.

Label a seed lot both inside and with a tag tied on outside round the neck of the polythene bag.

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