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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seed Saving in general terms

I like to do "Seed Trains" with persons who would like to learn about seed saving, trading, and growing your own. (It does'nt matter what state you live in) You can send me an email, or just ask.

The basic rules are collect seeds of plants you can comfortably identify and mark the name on a package. If its from a garden, then know the rules of how to probagate or collect heirloom seeds. Make sure the seed is fully mature before picking. (This may take some practice or experience. Some seeds are easier to collect than others)

When growing some types of vegetables from seed, if its planted next to one of its realtives, it might cross pollenate. You will still get a tomato from a tomato seed but it may not taste or look the same. Keep this in mind if you decide to plant 12 different tomato plants next to each other. Even if they are "heirloom".

If your not collecting the seeds it doesn't matter; but it sure is cheaper to save some seed than having to purchase it each year and hope your usual distributer still carries it. You can choose to rotate your favorites, or plant them further apart, or use spun bond to cover during blooming and keep one type covered while the other is getting pollenated. Or hand pollenate. This is reasonable with some types of veggies but not all.

People started collecting seeds in the first place; to ensure that their best loved plants would be there for them again the next season. They would take the best tasting tomato and keep the seeds in a cup to ferment for a few days. When it starts to look like the gelantous mass is breaking down and releasing the seed; its time to rinse and dry off on a paper towel. Allow a few days to dry completely.

I usually take a half of an envelope or make some packets from recycled paper. Or reuse some envelopes to keep seed in. I keep a scrap book of types and growing conditions and notes to fall back on for next season. Seeds do best when they are cool and dry, and kept out of direct sunlight. The viability of some seeds is longer than others. And some seeds do best when replanted right away. (More so wild edibles)

Its best if your going to collect seed to try it with one or two items the first season. If you try and take on too much you will end up not being a happy gardener and give up. If the price of food keeps going up,(should I say when?) it will be a good skill to have.

I know from past experience, even with my own family they would grow a dozen tomato plants and then give away tomatoes to everyone. I'm guilty of the same thing; and sharing is nice but don't forget about sauce or canning.
If you ever tried to make sauce, you would not just toss the "imperfect" ones into the compost, but instead try and make sauce out of them if not a bushel or so. Give it some thought. If your seed grows true to form, taste and color three seasons or more in a row, you can safely say you still have an heirloom seed. If you save seed and all the tomato plants look different, and taste different, and some even have curled leaves or other problems, you probably got a throw back from one of the original parent plants or a new cross breed. If you were in a tight pinch and didn't wish to just toss the seed, you could do a test planting of some of the seeds and see what happens.

If your wanting to ensure some will be heirloom and then mark those with a colored twist tie and numbering system and then the next year try growing the seeds and see what you get. If one tomato plant tastes way better than some of the others, then that is the one you want to keep seed from. Even when you have all the same variety of tomato plant you may end up with some better tasting than others.
This is very true with wild edibles. Since they are not cultivated, they can vary in taste and texture from plant to plant and even in chemical content. That is why it is good to know what you have when foraging and what to expect. Some plants are quite edible and some only certain parts of the plants can be eaten like rhubarb..the stalks are edible but the leaves will make you quite sick. This used to be passed down from grandparent to grandchild. Now most of us are re-learning it.

Some plants when allowed to go to seed, will "winter sow" and you get new starter plants which you just transplant into their new beds while they are still small. I have done this with broccoli, parsley, leeks and garlic. I have also had some leafy greens come up by themselves as well as dill. If I don't eat them before I make it back to the house, I take little bits of edibles and toss them into my salad bowl. When its early in the season, I toss in some garlic scapes, dandilion leaf and even wild violet leaves and flowers can be added to beet top leaves or even wintered over carrots. Once you get a feel for the how and why, it starts to become a little bit easier each time. I feel its important for everyone to grow some food even if its only one tomato plant. A cardboard box full of corn which can be a nice privacy screen, smells great and the stalks are useful for fall decoration as well as crafting. corn stalks make great compost too, if you don't end up feeding them to livestock. I believe everything has a use. If you are dragging alot of refuse to the curb for others to carry off, maybe you need to rethink your plan. I can't help but shake my head when I see pumpkins at the curb instead of composted in the garden.

You can save some of your pumpkin seeds and roast the rest of them to eat like nuts. Some people grind them up to make a flour or add to flour. Raw foodies grind them up and add them to smoothies, as well as sunflower seeds.

Other seeds like broccoli. If you keep extra seed available you can start sprouts for a salad, sandwich or snack. There are so many reasons to collect seeds as there are plants.
If anyone has collected seeds, they can post their experiences, or you can ask questions and we will try and answer a few of them too.

Plus don't forget about joining a seed train or have a seed swap. I can tell you more about that too if your interested. Cher

I wanted to add another great NY source for Heirloom seeds: The Victory Seed

Take a look at their topics which talk about various aspects of seed saving that are important to know. They sell seeds but also are a seed bank for providing heirloom seeds.

Victory Seed Company

Rare, Open-pollinated & Heirloom Garden Seeds

News & Information

We do rely on the sale of seeds to fund our work, but our primary mission is to protect seeds. One of our tools for doing this is through education and dissemination of information.

The following links are to tools and information located on our Web site. In some cases, the links will lead you to other sites.

Visit them at: http://www.victoryseeds.com/catalog/index.html


Kymber said...

Cher - both of these posts were awesome! and i would definitely be interested in starting a seed swap! lets see if we can get some others involved too! i will send you an email.

again - awesome posts!

Kymber said...

Cher - send me an email -

CherB said...

If you email me, please make sure to include where you contacted me from as I am in a few groups and I need a point of reference.
Kymber, I will send you an invite to show you what a seed swap or train looks like. Cher

I keep a "Train schedule" database so that we can track where they end up all over the US.

Kymber said...

I got the invite Cher...thanks so much! Now off to read your newest post - keep 'em coming girl!

jambaloney said...

This is a really motivating post!!

It's the kind of post that says "I can do this!"

I'm going into a new gardening season with an extra boost o' confidence!

Thanks and keep it up!!!

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