Don’t you just love September? Nature is bountiful and everywhere you seem to look is laden with fruits, seeds and glistening berries.
My Grandmother - a staunch Methodist who lived in the Peak District - taught me so much about foraging. Through the austerity of the war years she and my dad (a small boy then) would be out on the moors collecting blackberries and bilberries, mushrooms and crab apples - a harvest that, once processed, provided joy and sustenance throughout the winter months. She was also diligent about collecting and storing seeds ready to plant out in the following Spring.
So many activities designed for children give instant results but it’s important too, that children understand the concept of waiting, of investing time in something that gives reward in the future. I love collecting seeds with children and storing some of them ready to plant out in the Spring. This simple activity teaches children about the wonder of life-cycles and seed dispersal - connecting them with their natural world.
Some seeds are difficult to store but great to discover, particularly those surrounded by fruit. Children will love teasing apart the fruit to find the little seed buried inside. Great berries to try this with are elderberries, blackberries, hawthorn berries, holly berries and rowan berries.
Tree seeds make satisfying discoveries and offer a really exciting opportunity to plant and grow - particularly conkers, beech nuts, acorns, sycamore and ash. The way trees disperse their seeds is also fascinating to children (and grown-ups!).
Annual plants are the simplest to collect and store for next year. I suggest poppies, nasturtiums, sunflowers, marigolds and cornflowers as they are all very different. You will know when these seeds are ready to collect as the leaves of the plant will be dying off and the seed heads will be brown, and dry in appearance. Collect the seeds on a sunny day so the seeds are dry - moisture will spoil them in storage. The seeds should come away from the plant easily.
Poppies - magical! Shake the seed head into a paper bag and be in awe of all the tiny seeds.
Nasturtiums are large and easy to handle. These can be gently pulled off the plant.
Sunflowers - cut off the seed head when the seeds are dry and ease the seeds off onto a tray. The geometry of a sunflower seed head is something to behold.
Marigolds - these appear once the flower heads have fallen off. They are brown and curled on the top of the stem.
Cornflowers - like marigolds once the flower petals have fallen off, the head turns brown. Once brown you can squeeze it and the seeds pop out.
Dandelion seeds are also lovely to note, collect and store. Children will love to look carefully at their feathery, floaty method of dispersing.
It’s really important to make sure the seeds are absolutely dry before storing so spread them out on kitchen roll or trays and keep in warm room overnight.
Encourage your child/ren to make their own seed packets from paper envelopes. Don’t forget to identify them with drawings and/or their names. Storing the seed packets in a cool dry place is essential so pop them in a damp-free place over the winter.
Next Spring the children will be delighted to have find these treasures packets ready to plant and you will be delighted that you have an activity up your sleeve - and one that will continue to offer learning opportunities, colour and joy as your plants grow.
Hand-collected seeds make lovely little gifts too - an eco-conscious and lovely alternative to the plastic-toys in party bags, or sent to friends in the post. Spread the joy! Pass it on…
Have you seen our Plant a Tree Kit? The perfect gift for young nature-lovers, it contains a beautiful wooden-handled trowel as well as an amazing guide on tree identification.