Collecting Seeds

Seed saving

In agriculture and gardening, seed saving (sometimes known as brownbagging) is the practice of saving seeds or other reproductive material (e.g. tubers) from vegetables, grain, herbs, and flowers for use from year to year for annuals and nuts, tree fruits, and berries for perennials and trees. This is the traditional way farms and gardens were maintained.

In recent decades, there has been a major shift to purchasing seed annually from commercial seed suppliers, and to hybridize or clone plants that do not produce seed that remains “true to type”-retaining the parent’s characteristics- from seed. Much of the grassroots seed-saving activity today is the work of home gardeners.

How to collect and save seed



Leave seeds, seed-heads and pods to mature on the plant. Seeds will begin to look and feel dry and then will be ready to save. Seeds from fruits need to be taken when overripe. Be careful to pick seeds off before they look like they are ready to fall or split open naturally. If pods do “burst” or seeds fall, then save the seed! 


Dry the seeds by putting them on a paper towel or in a paper bag in a warm, dry place. A sunny windowsill is ideal. Spread the seeds out. Do not use a plastic bag or leave the seeds wet as the pod will not dry out and the seeds may rot. 


When the seeds are dry and feel “crispy”, they are ready to move. Keep the seeds in pods in the paper bag as the pod will split when the time is right. The paper bag will ensure that you don’t lose any seeds. 


Fill out the labels on your Foxton Seedy Sunday collection envelopes with as much information about the plant as you know (such as colour, size or sun requirements) and then carefully decant the seeds. If you have loads of a particular type of seed, divide them up into different labelled envelopes. You can use ordinary paper envelopes if you run out of your Foxton Seedy Sunday ones as long as you make sure they are sealed properly. 


Keep the envelopes in a cool, dry place until Foxton Seedy Sunday on a Sunday in March when you can come along and swap them for other plant seeds for your garden. Just don’t forget where you have put your seeds!

Legalities – Text from real seed catalogue

In 2012 a new seed law was drawn up by the European Commission which if passed would hugely restrict the vegetable varieties that could be sold.

The only people who had any input into drafting this law were large multi-national businesses who supplied ‘technical experts’ to ‘help’ them write the law, which is why it completely ignored the needs of small farmers and home growers, or even just common sense.

Where are we now? Two committees have a say in this law, the Environment committee, and the Agriculture committee. On January 30th, the Environment Committee voted unanimously (49:0) to reject the law entirely, and send it back to the Commission for redrafting from scratch. Then, in February, the Agriculture committee also voted (37:2) to reject the law and send it back.

What Next? Its not clear how this will go. The status quo (ie the already existing seed laws) have lots of problems, and potentially a new law that takes full account of the needs of the environment, organic growers and home gardeners could be an improvement. In some ways a ‘worst case’ scenario might be if the new law was abandoned entirely, and the EU pushes the UK Government to enforce the existing laws much more strictly. However, the thousands of suggested changes to the draft law are not all compatible with each other, and even spending just 10 minutes discussing each one would take forever.

We think it is good to keep up the pressure and so we are still asking you all to consider writing to your MEPs – you can find a list here which shows the MEP in your region who is on the Agriculture or Environment committee.

Tell them that home gardeners are a specific market – they don’t have the same needs as commercial farmers. Ask them to push for derogations (exemptions) in any new seed laws for varieties developed for home gardeners and small scale growers.

(If you’d like to read them, the Agriculture and Environment draft reports are both available on the EU website.)

The law itself is linked below if you want to wade through it. But before you start, a very important warning:
You cannot just read the first 5 pages or so that are an ‘executive summary’, and think you know what this law is about. The executive summary is NOT what will become the law. It is the actual Articles themselves that become law, the Summary has no legal standing and is just tacked on as an aid to the public and legislators, it is supposed to give background information and set the proposed legislation in context so people know what is going on and why.

The problem with this law has always been that the Summary says lots of nice fluffy things about preserving biodiversity, simplifying legislation, making things easier etc etc – things we all would love – but the Articles of the law don’t really have the promised effects. And the Summary is not what becomes the law.

So, be warned. By all means, read it yourself. But you have to pretty much ignore the Summary as that is not the Law, and does not reflect what is in the Law. The actual meat of it starts around about Page 25. Some of the more important articles are 2, 3, 14, and 36 but you do need to read all the rest as well to see how they fit together.

Official version of the Law as of May 6th 2013 is Here

Draft report from 28th October 2013 with proposed changes, removing and limiting the concessions is here

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