Friday, November 22, 2013
Saving Seeds - A (Very) Basic Look
In the Bee Keeping world you always see the phrase "All Bee Keeping is Local". I have found this to be true for the most part not only with bees but to gardening as well.
I suspect that there are some gardeners out there that can tell you what variety of plants do best in any given local area or at least on a regional level but for most of us it's a hit or miss type of affair.
How many times have I looked at a type of plant and saw it's growing conditions seem to fit what I have only to find out it just wouldn't grow. Or it would grow but seemed to attract a certain pest that attacked it mercilessly. I have seen some plants that would flourish while it's siblings of the same variety would die.
Aside from the obvious sustainable or survival reasons for keeping your own seeds it also allows you to selectively breed many varieties specific to your own garden and fields. The problem with seed saving is that you could write a book about it and still not touch on the specifics for each individual variety of plants.
Some are very easy to save. The grain and bean varieties are super easy. You pretty much just allow them to dry on the stalk or vine naturally and then gather them up and save em for the next year. Other types are harder. I find Tomato seeds to be a real pain as they require a fermentation period in order to become viable. In many varieties you either have to allow the normally edible part to grow past the point it is normally harvested in order to hit the seed stage or you have to let a specific part of the plant flower which is not normally done. Broccoli is a good example of the former and squash is a good example of the latter.
Many plants have more than one way to collect and save viable seeds as well. Back to my tomato nemesis I have read a number of different ways and steps to save them and put them through the fermentation process yet after many failures I took a different route with some success. I simply let the fruit hang on the vine until it was rotting and then bit the bullet and pulled seeds out of the rotting mess with my fingers. My guess is that was the natural fermentation process that is normally interrupted when the fruit is picked.
I have to admit it doesn't always work either.
Some seeds require a freezing or cool period in order to become viable as well.
Saving seeds is really a requirement for sustained small farming and gardening. As I hope I explained it also is such a varied and wide subject with local specifics most of us feel at first it is some kind of secret knowledge those in the know refuse to share. It's not a refusal to share it's a matter of personal and local experience that almost cannot be explained. All I can really do is explain how I would go about saving seeds from a plant I want to keep.
I flip through the few gardening or small grain books I have that go so far as to touch on saving seeds. Many of them won't go there I warn you and none that I have found really explain everything. Again I suspect for the reasons I have given.
Second I literally "google" it. Do an internet search. I have found that is the best way to find out little hints and tricks for specific varieties of plants.Take notes, print out the steps others recommend and then keep your own notebook on what you did that works.
My final step when there is a plant I want to save and I cannot find any good directions on saving the seeds? Well I let that particular plant have it's own space and live it's life unmolested and make sure some of the fruit or whatever is allowed to fall and rot. Often times by observing how the plant manages it's own reproduction you can determine when or how to either collect the seeds yourself or allow volunteer plants to grow unmolested in the Spring by creating a small area you do not disturb.
I have on several occasions discovered volunteers of specific plants I thought I had lost in the Fall because I botched the seed saving process. To my delight they turn up as volunteers ready to carry on the tradition. Volunteers are a whole other post but in many cases giving a plant the right conditions to produce volunteers can also give you valuable insight in how to save it's particular seeds.
I know this post isn't a lot of help and has big holes in it. I am simply attempting to explain why finding information on seed saving is so frustrating at times and how to get to the specific information you need.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!