Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seeds, Glorious Seeds

Hallelujah, it's cooled off a little. If August is the month when novice gardeners fall off the wagon and let things go to seed, wither, and generally get out of control, let September be our month to creep back, prune, remove, and restore. It's also a good time to save seeds.

Since most seeds need three things to grow (water, soil, sunlight/warmth) you'll want to store them in such a way as to avoid those conditions. That is somewhere dry, clean, and dark. Make sure your seeds are totally dry before you tuck them away in a drawer. Similarly, if you're going to store seeds in the freezer, be sure they're dry beforehand. Otherwise they might rot and lose viability. I like to dry goopy seeds like melon or tomato seeds on a sheet of newspaper on the porch. It's outside, but out of direct sunlight. Give the seeds a couple of stirs to separate them from the newsprint as they dry and pick of the dried bits of vegetable or fruit pulp before you store them.

Saving seeds is the first half of the chore. The second half is labeling them and storing them and knowing what you've got so you can use them next spring and summer. I like to label my seeds with the plant name, the year the seeds were harvested, and any other information like "From Gerry Moll" or "Did well in partial shade." Tracking provenance points towards the generations before us who "genetically modified" through careful selection year after year.

John shows "leather britches" to Urban Land Scouts in the Beardsley greenhouse.

As famed bean collector and garden master John Coykendall said when he visited Beardsley Farm last year, "[We are] going to be the future of seed saving...people like [us]. People with such interests." (Thanks to Kat for her notes.) Like so many things, the success of seed saving is not grand or sexy, but rather incremental and ordinary. A good metaphor to carry into fall.

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