Thursday, July 31, 2014

Saving Seeds

This year I had the great joy to participate in the Victoria Seed Library.  The beginning of the growing season I choose 6 different seed kinds from their lovely list of things to grow, and received tiny envelopes with a pinch of seed in each.  The goal is to plant the seeds in the garden, nurture them, then select and save seeds from the best plants.

I'll save a few seeds for myself and in the case of dried beans and peas, a handful for a meal, then give the remaining seeds back to the library so they can share the seeds with people next year.

It's not only a lot of fun, but it's also a good reminder about how precarious our food future is and the importance of maintaining genetic diversity in our gardens.

The Seed Library is free to participate in, free workshops and free seeds.  The only thing you are obligated to do is to give back some of this years seeds and a record of how the plants grew, conditions, &c.

We have sandy soil that we augment heavily with manure and compost, a long dry summer, and a weak well.   So when I selected the plants worth keeping seeds from, I choose those that were most drought tolerant and good producers.

Here are some observations on the seeds I choose and how they grew on our farm.

Tangerine Marigold (which I suspect are actually Tangerine Gem Marigolds)

Tiny little flowers that smell like apple candy.  Grow in a bush formation about 8 inches high, and make a nice border.  I thought maybe I would use these for dyeing yarn, but given how tiny they are, not much hope of collecting enough for that.  However, they may make a good companion plant, as the insects seem to avoid them.  More research is needed, but yes, I think I'll grow these again next year.

Drought tolerance?  About 1/4 died from drought, but what did survive thrived!

I started these inside then planted them out in the garden when danger of frost had past.

Green Lentils

Moderate drought tolerance, but the number of pods that filled out was lower than I would prefer.  For the pods that did fill out, there was only one lentil per pod instead of the two there should have been.  I hope it was simply the lack of water and not a flaw of the plant that prevented the beans from forming.

Also, as the lower pods dried out, they started to split open and spit out their seeds, so I ended up harvesting the plants much earlier than I would have hoped.

Hutterite Soup Beans

These make really nice snacking beans as well as dry soup beans.  They do have a climbing tendency despite what the internet says.  The beans aren't ready yet, but when they are, I think I'll separate the ones that like to climb from the ones that prefer to bush.

I had a lot of trouble starting these seeds, though I think the soil was warm enough.  In the end, about half survived to reproduce.

Wild Cherry Bush Tomato

This has been an outstanding success.  Every single one of these seeds I planted grew, and my garden is overwhelmed by tiny tomatoes growing on massive bushes.  The most sturdy of tomato cages cannot contain this plant.  I had so many germinate that I started giving the extras away.

Funny thing is, the ones with the richest soil aren't growing as well as the ones with sandy loam.

Darlaine Pea - yellow soup pea

More drought tolerant than regular garden peas, these little gems taste delicious at different stages.  The shoots are delicate and sweet.  The young pods can be consumed whole like you would snow peas, the mature pods make great boiled peas and finally the dried peas... well they are just like yummy dry peas.


Didn't grow :( despite planting the seeds in different environments and time of year.  No seeds left.  Maybe the Library will accept bread poppy seeds instead.

All in all, it's been an enjoyable experience.  It's nice to be reminded that gardening is not a solitary act.

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