Jekka's guide on how to harvest herb seeds

Jekka's guide on how to harvest herb seeds

At Jekka’s we love growing plants and still, after nearly 40 years, find it magical to raise plants from seeds. We have written numerous blogs on growing from seeds, including:

However, it is also vitally important to collect and harvest your seeds. This is becoming even more true as not only is it becoming difficult to import seeds into the UK but also the threat of climate change and the associated extreme weather events such as fires is putting seed availability at risk.

Therefore, by collecting, storing, drying and sometimes sharing your seeds, you are helping protect the future of plants.

Jekka’s guide to harvesting herb seeds

Jekka's top tip for harvesting seed is to collect the seeds after midday. This is when all traces of the mornings dew have evaporated and the seed heads are dry.  Choose vigorous healthy plants and harvest when most of the seed appear to be ripe.

After cutting the seed heads, allow them to dry out naturally in a warm dry place with good air circulation. A sunny windowsill is idea, but the kitchen is the worst place due to humidity and moisture.

To allow the seed heads to dry out thoroughly, let them lie loosely in open cardboard boxes or in open paper bags.  Either write on the cardboard box or the paper bag the name and date of the seed collected so you can remember which is which when it comes to cleaning. 

Once the seed heads have completely dried, the seeds are cleaned by removing the surrounding capsule or chaff. This is a wonderful mid-winter job when it is too cold to garden!  Be warned, some plants do demand endless patience and determination to remove the seed from the chaff.  Luckily for home use you do not need to be too pedantic.  It was a revelation when we found that some seeds, such as Inula and Rumex, need their chaff as it helps them hold their viability and increases their germination rate.

When the seeds are cleaned, we store them in paper envelopes onto which we will have written their botanical name and date of collection. We highly recommend using paper envelopes as this will help to protect your seeds from sweating and then rotting.  The envelopes should then be put in a container to protect them from rodents, and stored in a cool room or garage, not in a greenhouse.

Start sowing herbs this Autumn

Autumn is the perfect time to sow culinary herbs to produce a winter crop because the soil is still warm and the pest and diseases that might have been present earlier in the year, such as carrot fly, have gone away. Autumn herbs will enable you to add fresh herb flavours to your winter meals, soups and salads. Check out Jekka's tips on sowing your winter culinary herbs.

Especially for Autumn, see Jekka's Grow at Home Autumn Herb Kit that contains all you need to start growing this autumn.

Alternatively, click on the links to view our full range of herb and vegetable seeds and our seed collections that make ideal decorative gifts.

Want to know more?

For advice on growing and maintaining herbs, check out ‘Jekka’s Seasonal Tips’ blog series, which includes what to do in your herb garden in early spring, late spring, summer and autumn & winter. Together they form the basis of Jekka’s guide on how to grow herbs.

Herb plants are available and you can organise a collection from our herb farm in South Gloucestershire or at one of our Open Days or Herb Experiences (see our events calendar). Please see our 'Looking Good List' for availability and use our webform or email your list directly to us ( We no longer offer a general mail order service for our plants but we do offer a limited selection of Jekka's Culinary Herb Boxes.