Friday, April 8, 2011
I'm a sucker for seeds
I love seeds. I guess you can tell. There are a lot more not pictured here. I have seeds from various seed companies like Johnny's and Bakers Creek. I have a LOT of the 20 cent seeds packs from various retailers. If you read the labels, they are open pollinated, though I don't have a problem with hybrid seed, either.
Open pollinated and heirloom seeds can be saved from the produce you grow. Hybrid, however, cannot. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with hybrid plants. They are usually a cross of two varieties, carrying on the best of both lines. But if you save that seed, you end up with a parent plant instead of the variety you saved the seed from. Still, food is food, and I have had several 'volunteer' plants where hybrid tomatoes have gone to seed. Some of them have been pretty darned tasty.
I've only recently started my tomato and pepper seeds. I should've had them in flats way before now, but things have been hectic, to say the least. I have no doubt they'll be ready in time for planting. I'll probably be starting the rest of the seeds either this week or next.
Plants that have a healthy start have a better chance of survival in the garden. Putting out a plant vs planting a seed directly in the ground: the plant can withstand slug damage far better than a freshly sprouted seedling.
See all those paper bags in the pic? Those are seeds I saved from last year's harvest. Saving seed is simple. It took me a while to figure that out, though, thanks to all of the articles and books that make it sound like rocket science. I never had much luck with their methods, either. Go figure.
To save seed, select the best of the best produce. Remember, hybrid plants won't give you true seed, and forget GMO seed...it'll be sterile, or you'll end up with something bizarre, like tomato plants with arms or something (I wouldn't eat that fruit, but it'd be a great conversation piece in the garden). It's best if you don't use seed from grocery store produce; it's pretty rare any of that will give you true or even viable seed, and even then, it may not be suitable to your climate. Farm market produce would be better, but be sure to ask if it's hybrid.
Our grading method went something like this: The very biggest, prettiest, and healthiest produce we saved for seed. Next best went to market. The rest we ate and/or preserved, except for anything too far ripe or too bug bitten; those we gave to the chickens and rabbits.
So..back to saving seed. Let's take squash as an example. Scrape out the seeds. Put them in a colander or strainer, and rinse well. Shake them around to get the water out. Now, simply put the strainer in a dry place. I put mine behind my wood stove, where it's not too hot but very dry. If you don't have an extremely dry place, spread the seeds on a screen (an old window screen works fine) and shake them regularly to keep them from sticking together. Do NOT put them in the sun, on the roof, in the dehydrator, or any place that will reach above 90 degrees. It's a great idea to jot down what the seeds are from, and clip this note to the drying screen or strainer; a clothespin works great for this.
Once the seeds are dry, put them in a paper bag. Not plastic. Paper. This will allow any leftover moisture to escape. LABEL them. For the love of Pete: LABEL THEM!! Unless you really like a mystery garden. *shrugs*
See? Easy!! You'll be amazed at the amount of seed you end up with. Seed packets have less than a dozen squash seeds; you'll have hundreds out of one squash! Woooohooo!
Sorry, I get a little excited about seeds. Can you tell? :)