|Just dreaming of fresh beans.|
|This was my biggest lettuce head last summer. It was gorgeous. I let it bolt and go to seed last fall so I could have seed that came from my very best head of lettuce.|
I'll decide which ones I want to save
in each family, so there will be no cross pollinating. Brassicaceae is the family that cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi are in so I will pull up my over wintered Kohlrabi and put them into the compost or in the chicken pen. I will save the cabbage this time. I will let the cabbage seed develop in the garden while I plant new baby cabbages in the garden. The seed will be ready to dry and process when the seed structures begin to turn brown. I can continue to grow anything I want in the garden, I just don't want the plants in the same family to be blooming at the same time. Often I get a batch of seeds in the spring from the wintered over plants and then another batch in the fall. Some I could get all summer if I time it right.
Don't forget that weeds will cross pollinate with your garden plants too, namely carrots, which are in the same family as Queen Ann's Lace (Daucus carota).
|Pea pods on the vine I didn't pick last fall to make viable seed to save.|
The last time I ordered Amish Pie squash seed from Seed Savers (this is not a slander against them, I order from them every year and still will), this is the assortment I got from the 4 seeds I planted:
I have noticed this problem, when the seeds I purchase do not "come true", to be increasing over the last ten years. I think that it is getting very difficult to isolate commercial crops because of the shrinking farmland and the economic pressure for farmers to cut costs.
Pair that with the fact that a lot of seed is sold to people who don't plant it, plant it poorly and kill it or don't keep track to be able to tell if the seed did not come true. Really it does not ultimately pay off in most cases for seed producers to be squeaky clean. Who will hold them accountable?
Also, a point that came home to me the other day when I went to pick up some special seed for an (this is ironic) Earth Day function for our community garden, is that non organic seed producers are some of the best customers of DuPont. While we drove through the fields of this local, family run seed producers farm, it was very clear that the way they dealt with any cross pollination or weed issue was to spray and kill everything in sight. If they were changing a crop in a field, then they did a mass spray and kill. As my mother used to say, "the scorched earth policy" was being used.
I usually buy my seed from small seed distributors. But, after this experience, I will try very hard to only buy Organic.
I will buy the odd packet of seeds if it strikes my fancy, I don't expect much from them and if the seed does turn out to be really good I am careful to plant it (I rarely use an entire packet of seed in one year) in such a way the next year so as to allow me to save the seeds. It's still a crap shoot though, since a packet of seeds could contain the seeds of several different plants in a field.
One cannot get good results saving seed from hybrids though. Hybrids do not produce seed that will turn out like the parent.
Saving seed takes a little planning. For instance, I will plant only one summer squash variety or I will isolate a male and female bloom (before they open) with paper bags and then pollinate the "pure" female blossom with the "pure" male, myself (you just don't know where that bee has been!) after they open and close them back up in the bag until it turns into a fruit. I make sure to keep the resulting fruit clearly marked so I can find it at harvest time and save its seeds.
|Cabbage seed pods|
This year I am getting a little more ambitious. I have several types of plants that I need fresh seed from. Some of my tomato seeds (which I brought back from Italy) are nearly 13 years old! And yes, they are still germinating, but I do not want to hit the year that they don't germinate and then I am stuck without my precious (read with Italian accent) Pomodoro Cuor Di Bue.
The over view of the long range plan is this: I will get others to grow the seeds that I plant in well marked pots, in isolated spaces like an apartment patio, the yard of a non gardener or the back porch of a gardener that knows how to avoid cross pollination.
This is what I am trying for this year.
I have potted up two large pots of each lettuce type that I would like to get seed from this year. I will give one pot of each variety to each person to raise. They can harvest as much as they would like by using the "cut and come again" method. This is where you clip the lettuce with scissors or a knife 2" above the soil line and eat the clippings. Then whenever they want to let it go, or it starts to get bitter, they can just keep it watered and let it bolt and go to seed. When it finishes blooming and goes to seed they will call me and I will come collect it. Simple. Even a non gardener can let lettuce go to seed.
At the end of the year I collect the seeds and process them. Gardeners who want seed will get the assortment from everyone who participated. Non Gardeners will get produce and zucchini bread and high praise for helping their local seed genome.
|Lettuce seeds developing.|
|Lettuce seed about to fly out, each seed has a little parachute of fluff like a dandelion seed.|