Monday, November 7, 2011

Seed Saving Season Never Ends

Last April I began the age - old process of saving seeds for the 2012 garden and for my seed sales.

Those plants considered "biennials " in terms of their seed saving cycle were planted back in the newly thawed ground. Winter radishes, turnips, carrots, beets, mangels and cabbages are amongst my favourites to save and replant.

The multi-legged Long Black Spanish winter radish above needed a large hole needless to say, coming in at a weight over 10 lbs. Big radish.

I store these items with the tops removed, in barrels and layered in straw, then plant them in the cool spring soil.  Then magic happens. The seed stalks shoot up, and months later I am harvesting the lovely dry seed.

Imagine- a bean necklace!

Jolly Jester Marigold

The seed saving continues for the entire season. From tomatoes, to peppers and eggplants, flowers, seed potato and potato berries, beans, peas and lettuces. I could go on, and certainly do!

The beans I am still in the process of gathering.

A late wet spring resulted in late bean plantings, and a wet fall has made it difficult to get the beans off the field. But worth the effort none the less.

I have dry beans in their dried up pods everywhere! On my bedroom dresser, hanging in the garage, in the basement, and "lucky beans" in most of my pockets. As does Mollie. Some of them are just so beautifully patterned we carry them for luck. They remind me of the beauty of nature and of diversity.  They also speak to the potential of everything...even a small pretty patterned bean.

These beans are food for now and for the future. They are also 'objet's d'art" in my opinion. I believe the potential of bean jewellery is huge. However I have failed to sell anyone on this idea just yet.

Beans are one of the last seed harvests in the garden, as are the members of the physalis family. Tomatillos, ground cherries and cape gooseberries sit well in their little husks for weeks, so I get to them when I have the time.

My massive Salinas Valley tomatillos

They are fun to get seeds from. I pull out my trusty "Vita Mix" blender, pop in the de-husked fruit with a healthy splash of water and whir the fruits on low speed until it is a pleasant mash.

I wait for a minute for the contents to settle and the heavier seed has sunk, while the pulp and skin floats above it. I strain off the mash on top ( feeding it to my resident pig Joey) and clean the seeds below in a sieve with cold running water.

They are then laid out to dry, packaged, hopefully labelled and stored in a dry cool place. For me, that's the bottom of my freezer in a mason jar.

Want to save more of your own seed? They key is saving seed from open pollinated varieties, isolating varieties so as to prevent cross pollination and ensure seed purity and storing seed properly.
The very best guide I have found is Suzanne Ashworth's book "Seed to Seed", worth every penny you will pay for it.

When you learn the basics, you can really start to have fun. You can create your own varieties, work on growing out your favourite hybrids until they are open pollinated, and join the seed exchanges to share your valuable seed.

And of course, Niagara Seedy Saturday provides this opportunity too. Mark your calendars and get your seed packaged.

And I'll see you at Brock University, Pond Inlet on Feb 11, 2012!

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