I suffer from seedaphobia, the rare obsession some gardeners have when it comes to saving seeds. I can’t help myself. I can’t save every seed of course but I can dream. When I harvested kale this year I knew I didn’t need seeds so they were composted. When you think about the potential for all those seeds to grow food, I have to wonder why we have anyone going hungry. One kale plant produces thousands of seeds and each seed is a new plant. I still have kale seed from two years ago. I bet you are wondering what the photo above is. It’s a leaf bag full to the brim with kale seed pods off plants from the community garden. Each thin bean-like pod contains around forty seeds. Imagine how many seeds I would get from this bag. So for those of you buying kale seed, really? Look for my tips on how to save kale seed here.
Last year I started saving lettuce seeds from my plants. It was so easy. If you have lettuce in the garden it may look like this. This is called bolting and is the response to warmer temperatures and or day length. My lettuce in the garden is now three feet high. I left two plants in to let them flower and set seed. The flowers of lettuce are cute little yellow daisies that produce a puff of seeds similar to that of a dandelion. You just have to collect the seeds from the puff before they blow away. To see how to collect lettuce seed read here.
I also save seeds from tomatoes. This season I am growing seven types of tomatoes for a seed bank. If you were to visit my garden you will see little organza bags over the tomato flowers. Just before the tomato flowers open I place a bag over to keep bees from bring any unwanted pollen to the flowers. Yes, as my friends would say I am a hard-core gardener if I go to these lengths. The reason I do all this is because I love learning. I learn something new each day in the garden. Learning how to save seeds is easy and saves me money each spring. If that doesn’t have you saving seeds I will be surprised.
This year I will be saving seed from cucuamelons as I want to be able to offer plants for sale next year. I tend to save seed from plants that do well. I don’t save seeds from plants that do poorly. You don’t need that gene to be repeated. Always choose your best tomatoes when collecting seed.
I don’t save seeds from squash or melons if they are from the same plant family. There is too much crossing of pollen from one variety to another. I could bag the flowers on a plant but I think I have enough seed saving going on with the tomatoes. Have you had a mystery squash in your garden? I see you nodding yes. That’s because members of the same plant family can have pollen cross contamination. Bees carry pollen from one type of squash to another. They don’t know any better. Now if you are only growing one type of squash, is it okay to save seeds? Only if you tell the bees not to visit your neighbour’s garden. There has to be a quarter of a mile between squash plantings to safely save seed and have your next years plants come true from seed.
The easiest flower seeds to save are those of Marigolds. Above you can see a bloom that is done. It’s important to let it really go brown before collecting the seeds.
All you do is pinch off the finished flower and gently pry it open. See all the black seeds inside this bloom. If I had left this to dry out more all the seeds would be black inside. The ones that have not turned black are not ripe and will not grow. So don’t just toss your finished blooms in the compost. Save some seeds for next year.
Above is my parsley which is about five feet high in the garden. Parsley is a biennial plant so it produces leaves to eat in the first year and in its second year, it flowers and sets seed. Its flowers are loved by beneficial insects. Each tiny green ball in the flower will darken to a seed. I will collect the seed before it has a chance to drop to the soil. In this case I will place a brown paper bag over the flower so seeds can drop inside the bag. As you can see from just one flower the number of seeds I will be able to save is enough to last a family for years to come. Once I have my seed dried and packed in envelopes I like to store them in a cool frost-free garage. I use a large plastic tote and save the seeds in small shoe boxes by type.
Save seeds and share them with friends. Come to events like Seedy Saturdays across Canada. If you live in Delta or Metro Vancouver our Ladner Seedy Saturday will be held on February 20, 2016. I will be there so come and trade seeds with me.