by Sequoia Ferrel
Posted May 6, 2020
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In such uncertain times our thoughts turn to making sure we’re secure in basic necessities such as food and clean water. The best way to achieve food security is to have a robust local system where the majority of our food needs are provided through small farms and home gardens.
As gardeners and farmers we’re dependent on having access to seeds for the plants we want to grow. Since the Covid-19 crisis, there’s been a high demand for seeds and many have sold out. So, in order to work towards developing a strong local food system, it’s imperative that we start with the seed supply.
TF&F hopes to start a seed-saving network in which participants will each be responsible for growing and saving certain seeds based on their experience and preference. Then, before the next growing season (two seasons for biennials) we’ll be able to share the seeds so everyone can have a full garden worth of seeds and more to spare.
What follows is just a basic overview of seed-saving. I’m aware many of you already know all this stuff.
To get high-quality seed involves a little more than just waiting for something to flower and set seed and then gathering it up. Especially if we’re selecting for food crops, we want to choose seed from the healthiest plants that perform best for us under our growing conditions.
To start, we must be willing to set aside some garden space for our seed crops (if they’re biennials, that will involve this year and next also).
We also have to use open-pollinated seeds and not hybrid seeds (which won’t make new seed true to its parent). Seed catalogs will let you know whether the type of seed you’re buying is a hybrid or not.
Seeds can also be either self-pollinated or cross-pollinated. For those of you new to seed-saving, it’s best to start with self-pollinated crops as they can be grown fairly close to other varieties of the same species without fear of cross-pollination. Some of these are peas, beans, lettuce and tomatoes.
For those of you more experienced or up for a challenge, you can try growing crops that cross-pollinate, which may be pollinated by insects or wind. If you choose this option, you’ll need to know not only to keep other varieties in your garden from flowering at the same time but you’ll need to be aware of other gardens and farms that may be within your isolation distance. Some seed crops just can’t be grown here — for instance carrots will cross with Queen Anne’s Lace — which as far as I know grows everywhere in this area.
There are also 3 other main categories of plants: annuals, biennials and perennials. Annual seeds can be saved the same year they are planted. Biennials, such as the cole crops and root crops, will make their crop the first year and need to be kept alive into the second year, which is when they put their energy into making seed.
I’m willing to head this seed-saving network and if anyone wants to help, you’re more than welcome! My idea is that initially everyone interested will notify me, and the group, as to which seeds we want to save, and then we’ll make adjustments so that we don’t have, for instance, 10 people saving lettuce and no one saving beets.
Once we decide who grows what, I can send you specific info concerning your seed choices. I’m not an expert but I do have reference materials, including The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio, which is the definitive reference. I also have a few seed screens and fan, and can help with the seed cleaning when we get to that point.
You can reply to this blog or contact me directly at email@example.com. HAPPY GARDENING