Going to seed

This year, one of the challenges that I set myself was to save seed from some of my edibles.  I don’t actually know what I’m doing here.  I’ve read stuff that says you have to have plenty plants and not mix them up, and they might not come true, etc. etc. I’m afraid I’m not a very patient or methodical person.  I learn by doing, not by meticulously following instructions.  It’s a slow and painful method, admitedly.  But nature sets seed and sows it all the time, and has got pretty good at it, so there must be some plants that aren’t complicated to save seed from.  Anyway, I got stuck in and although I’ve been winging it, here are some of my results so far.

seeds oct 17

Top: chard (pink and red).  This one took some patience.  Chard grows to an enormous height as it goes to seed, and then falls flat on its face, sending up forests of flower shoots.  I left it alone, praying that whatever was unlucky enough to be underneath would eventually recover again (ajuga reptans, and it did).  By late September, I was confident that it had actually set seed.  I cut it off at the base, rather than hoiking out the plant, to avoid disturbing the soil (and just out of curiosity to see whether the plant would regrow).  I carried the plants around to the back of the house, holding them upright like some sort of ceremonial flag.  There was a pattering sound as seeds cascaded all around me.  It will be interesting to see where chard appears next year.  I lay the plants down on the patio and painstakingly stripped off the seeds.  I ended up with several handsful in the two tubs at the top of this picture.  I don’t yet know whether they will germinate, but if they do, then I’m how self-sufficient in chard.  I’ve also been reading over on Skyent that perpetual spinach (leaf beet) self seeds happily, so am planning to give that a go next year.

The bottom tub is red orache.  I have also stripped seedheads and sprinkled them around the beds at the front.  This self-seeds very happily and I will probably be overrun with seedlings.  But just look …

red orache to seed Aug 17

Another easy plant to save seed from is sorrel.  This is schnavel, originally from the heritage seed library.  It has a lemony flavour and adds a zingy lime-green colour to the garden.  It looks rather like dock when it goes to seed, and when the seeds look dry and papery, they are ready.  I’ve sown some and they germinated and happily produced seedlings:

sorrel seedling oct 17

The utility room has been stuffed with paper bags full of various seed heads, but I finally got around to organising them into envelopes:

seeds in packets oct 17

Some plants self-seed so happily that I just left the seedheads on the ground:

lambs lettuce and land cress seedlings oct 17

Lambs lettuce and landcress.  Oh, and violets.

cosmos oct 17

And then there is cosmos.  These are from seed that I saved a few years ago.  They are … well, prolific.  They have grown huge and fallen over across pretty much everything .  I think if I’d grown these from commercial seed, they might not have been quite so large.  And they would have had white, pink and dark pink flowers rather than raspberry ripple.  So I’m starting to learn what you can and cannot get away with.

borage beans sweet peas Aug 17

Here are three really easy ones.  Sweet peas, runner beans and borage.  You will never need to save seed from borage.  Once you have it, it will be in your garden forever.  Sweet peas and runner beans just need time for their pods to get good and fat, and ideally dry, and then you can keep them and plant them on for next year.  I put sweet pea seeds in the same pot as a runner bean, as they are happy companions and a magnet for insects.  Nasturtium also set seed happily, but I left them alone to self seed last year and they took ages to get going.  This year I shall collect some, and see if I can get them started earlier.

It’s good to feel just a little bit less reliant on commercial seed companies, and a bit more self-sufficient.

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6 thoughts on “Going to seed

  1. I think one of my favourite sayings now is ‘plants don’t read books’. I would however recommend a couple: ‘the seed savers handbook’, by Jeremy Cherfas and Michel & Jude Fanton, is a reasonably accessible book for straightforwards seedsaving. Another is Carole Deppe ‘Breed your own vegetable varieties’ if you want to get into more detail on genetics and why some plants are easier to save than others. It’s a little american in places, and still doesn’t help much if you want to breed a new silverweed strain…..Another suggestion is to look at the real seed company (http://www.realseeds.co.uk) they sell seed but actually encourage you to save your own seed to grow from in the future!

  2. If you grow different kales and collards and the leafy cabbage family plants – they are super easy to save seed from and if they have “crossed” and created something slightly different it would likely be just fine! Thanks for this post – it encourages me to try a few things I haven’t yet.

    • Glad it helped! I will be trying to save seed from the brassicas next year, and as you say, I can’t go very far wrong as long as I’m not trying to grow them commercially (which I’m not). Thanks for dropping by 🙂

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