Sowing seeds of seed collecting

04:00, May 02 2012
Tim Newsham
Plenty to share: Gardener Tim Newsham gives a talk on seed saving using some of the seeds he has collected from his garden.

A group of Marlborough teachers and gardeners went back to school last week to learn about growing community gardens in Marlborough.

About 14 people attended the workshop on seed-saving run by the Marlborough Community Gardens. Many of the group were involved in the Marlborough Schools edible gardens project, which is hoping to set up a seed bank this year, Marlborough District Council education officer Annie McDonald said.

The project will see schools collecting seeds from school gardens, which will be put in packs with growing instructions and given to families who want to grow their own gardens.

Gardener Tim Newsham, who ran the workshop, said seeds were a resource for the community, allowing people to save money and increase their self-reliance.

"Many people grow their own gardens, but they miss out on the opportunity to save their own seeds."

Collecting your own seeds and participating in a seed bank sharing with other people was a great way to ensure a variety of good plants in the garden and boost the community.


"People often have too much seed for just themselves and they can give it away, trade it or sell it. I give away a lot of plants and seeds and I get stuff back tenfold from other people."

Saving seeds could be a slow process, much longer than going to a shop and buying a packet, but you got a lot more of the food you wanted, he said.

When choosing a plant to save for seeds Tim said he picked a plant he enjoyed eating, such as a tomato with a particularly good flavour.

After that it was just a matter of waiting until the fruit or vegetable was fully ripe before collecting the seeds and storing them.

"A seeds should be fully dry before they're stored, because if you have got moisture in anything it's going to rot or go rancid or mouldy.

"It's the same as the Egyptians did their mummies; remove moisture and keep the oxygen exposure to a minimum."

Tim recommended checking online or looking up how long a seed will keep as different seeds will store well for different lengths of time.

"Parsnips might last a year and beans might last six years.

"I told the group about a Maori gourd from Auckland museum, which was 150 to 200 years old.

"It got broken and I got some of the seeds.

"I was amazed these seeds grew straight away because it was in the most perfect storage container nature ever designed."

Carrots, cabbages, cauliflower and other plants from the same families were very hard to grow from your own seeds in Marlborough as they often cross pollinated with other plants, Tim said.

However, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, silver beet, rocket, spinach and lettuce were all plants that were easy to collect seeds from and grow in Marlborough.

The Marlborough Express