Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saving seed

One of the main reasons we are farming is to try and establish some sort of food security for ourselves.  We want to acquire valuable skills so we can be beneficial members of a resilient community.  Saving our seeds is perhaps one of the most important actions we can take.  Since this is fairly new to us, we are still discovering the best ways to harvest and store the seeds from each species we grow.  This week I decided to cut down some of the plants I had been allowing to go to seed, in order to make room for new plants.  The pods are not quite ready but I am hoping that if I allow them to dry in the sun they will mature nicely.  There are way more Siberian kale seeds here than we can possibly use so I will bring a bunch back to our local seed library, which is a satisfying feeling since our original kale seeds came from there.

Siberian kale seed pods drying in the sun
I am very interested to know some systems others choose for storing their seeds. At first we stored our seeds in paper envelopes in a special drawer.  Eventually this got messy and seeds were scattered all over. We have now opted for glass jars covered in paper and labeled, which we store in a dark cabinet.  This has been efficient but the glass is problematic (living in earthquake country). 

Our first season starting all of our plants from seed, almost everything we planted came from free seeds; either from our local seed library, a nearby ecology center, or traded from friends.  I also found out about the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).  It is listed as a source for rare seeds in the back of Perennial Vegetables.  GRIN is a national collection of plant materials of hundreds of crops and thousands of wild crop relatives from all over the globe.  Free seeds and plants are available for research purposes.  What intrigued me about GRIN is that I could order seeds collected by hand in the forests of the Ukraine, some rare variety of quinoa from Peru, or a stash of corn seed that has been saved by some farmer's wife in Nebraska for decades.  The downside to GRIN is that you have no way to know if the seeds are organic so I tried to stick with the wild species that interested me.  To be honest, I have not planted many of the seeds I received from this source but the ones I have planted I am quite happy with, like the tree spinach (aka lambs quarters).  

It has been fun experimenting with mystery varieties but this year we opted to purchase specific heirloom varieties (from here) that we had read about and were excited to try; for flavor, size, appearance, and which are the best keepers.  Learning about the varieties that grow well in our micro-climate is taking our gardening to another level and teaching us yet another invaluable aspect of sustainability.  

1 comment:

  1. I also save my seeds in glass jars, but being in earth quake territory, perhaps tins would be a better option for you.