It’s spring! That means outdoor activity around here has sprung into high gear.
The hyacinths and tulips have finished their bloom cycles.
The strawberries, peaches, apricots, plums, and nectarines are blossoming.
The onions that overwintered, as well as the freshly planted ones, are coming up strong and healthy and happy.
The rhubarb that the chickens dug up 2 months ago is growing well in spite of the abuse, although the chickens have not been happy with me for putting a fence around the poor defenseless rhubarb. (No pun intended.)
The parsley, peppermint, and catnip are all growing like weeds.
The steers continue growing, although if he knocks out my fence one more time, the yearling is going to go to the butcher before the 2-year old!
My extra bathroom is playing substitute mom to a few chicks I managed to hatch a couple of weeks ago.
And, many thanks are due two wonderful couples who helped build my modified walipini. It is now structurally complete and I’m working on the finishing touches to be able to start using it as greenhouse, of sorts.
More on that later!
I know spring seems a strange time for an article on seed saving, but, if you are planning to save seeds from this year’s garden, you really need to plan carefully what you are going to plant where, not just when.
Why would you want to save seeds?
Several reasons come to mind.
This year, there has been something of a “run” on both seeds and nursery plants. They do seem to be at least somewhat back in stock now, but supplies are low, and for many of the leading online companies, they are still out of many varieties.
Heirloom or open pollinated varieties have a tendency to “acclimate” to your specific climate if you save seeds from the same varieties and plant them year after year.
Additionally, when you save your own seeds, you know what has gone into them. For some people, having organic is very important. Others prefer varieties that have strong resistance to certain diseases that are prevalent in the area.
By saving your own seeds and using them in a year, you save a lot of money as well.
So, pick your favorite reason, and start saving seeds.
Now, back to the need to plan what you are going to plant, where, and when.
Many vegetables and flowers are pollinated by the wind and/or by insects, making it difficult to be sure that the seed you save one year will produce true to type plants next year or the year after that.
For example, corn pollen is wind carried and if you want to save corn for seed to plant next year, you’ll need to either make sure it’s the only corn growing within 2 miles, or plan on bagging the tassels to prevent contamination.
Corn is probably the WORST garden plant for a beginning seed saver!
Dill, on the other hand, is one of the best for a beginning seed saver since it doesn’t have a ton of varieties, nor does it have significant problems with crossing pollen with other plants nearby.
Lettuce can be another good one for a beginning seed saver. Both leaf and head varieties can be sown in close proximity because the flowers mostly self-fertilize. Growers report up to 5% crossing between varieties grown right next to each other. Not bad for a home garden, but, of course, you wouldn’t want to sell seeds if there was even a 5% chance they wouldn’t produce true to type.
An important consideration for those wanting to save seeds is to find open pollinated or heirloom varieties of plants.
The hybrids found in most of the stores are generally not good for seed saving. They have advantages in other ways though, but saving seeds from them is setting yourself up for disappointment down the road, and possible legal hassles if the seed was patented.
What usually happens with hybrids is that seeds saved from year 1 will next year (year 2) produce a plant, but the vegetable may or may not look like the ones you got the seeds from, and it may or may not produce seeds for you to plant for year 3. By year 3, many of them will not grow at all, or, if they do, there is no telling what you’ll get, except that it has almost no chance of being what you grew in year 1.
Since I don’t plan to turn this article into a book on seed saving, I will suggest that one of the best books I’ve seen on the subject is called “Seed to Seed – Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners” by Suzanne Ashworth. The binding is terrible, but the information is tops, and no, I don’t receive any compensation for recommending it!
And before I forget, I’ve also been training a new puppy – an Australian shepherd – who is getting along very well with the older teeny dog. One more activity adding to the busy schedule.
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