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Seed saving for schools

Seed Riddle

by Laurel Anderson

I appear dead before I am alive

Although often quite small, inside my skin a tree can live

I can survive hundreds of years without food or water

I can be as small as dust or as large as a football

Humans and animals eat me

I can fly, swim and hitch a ride

I can survive freezing, fires and intense droughts

What am I?

Seed to table to seed

Students who follow a seed from planting through to harvesting, cooking and composting, and then save the seeds ready for next year, will have a powerful experience of the gardening year. For example, you can plant seeds from one or two crops; read about the history of the plants; observe and care for the seedlings; cook using them; save seeds on the plants; compost the inedible parts of the plants to enrich the garden soil, and study how this crop is grown and marketed commercially. Next season, you plant the very seeds that you saved and start the cycle over again.  Having a connection with plants throughout their whole life cycle is a powerful experience.

Good crops to try would be: broad beans (big seeds), sunflowers (the seeds can be used to feed birds), peas, lettuce. Find out more: and

What are seeds?


“A seed is a plant in a box with its own lunch.”

A seed develops from a fertilized ovule inside the ovary of a flower. When the petals drop, the ovary grows into a fruit, and the ovules become seeds. These seeds allow plants to travel across the globe, as they are carried by the wind, rain and animals. Some can survive drought, floods, fire and being eaten. One plant can produce thousands of seeds, or just a few.

Links in time

Each seed is a time capsule reaching back through almost 600 million years of plant evolution, as well as travelling into the future carrying the next generation’s genetic code.  Over the years humans have bred new varieties of plants which has allowed us to become farmers and to build cities and nations.

Seed stories

Luther Burbank (1849-1926) came from California and  developed over 800 strains and varieties of plants. In 1872-74 he bred a new variety of potato and sold the rights for $150. The Burbank potato went on to become the world’s main  processing potato, used to make McDonald's French fries.

Nikolai Vavilov was a Russian scientist who travelled the world collecting seeds for breeding. During the Nazis' World War II siege of St. Petersburg-Leningrad, Vavilov and his colleagues guarded more than 200,000 varieties of seeds, knowing that they could not replace them.  At least nine of them starved to death surrounded by stores of rice, wheat, corn and peas that they could have eaten.

Sir George Stapledon (1882-1960) was a visionary agricultural scientist who argued that farming, especially grassland, was central to the nation’s well-being. He was the first Director of the Welsh Plant Breeding Station in Aberystwyth, which pioneered the breeding of grass, clover and oat varieties for Welsh farms. Founded in 1919, the Station is now part of Aberystwyth University.

Roz Brown


Much credit for this information is due to the Seed Saving and Seed Study Guide for Educators:  “ A Handful of Seeds”. - a valuable free to download resource from:


Note to educators, or enthusiastic parents!  If you would like a fuller version of this article, with some very practical examples of projects, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will send you a copy.

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