Seed saving

You have to have flowers in that garden!

You have to have flowers in that garden!

Wow yesterday was a stunner! A magic autumn day, clear crystal blue skies, no wind and warm. Really warm, ok hot in the car actually because I had my damned boots on but that’s fashion for you!

Before I launch into my weekly post, I thought I should mention my chooks. I’m sure most people are completely unaware that chooks moult and do so yearly. A process where their wonderful plumage literally falls out. Not all at once of course, but they can lose lots of feathers giving them a scruffy semi-nude appearance. Poor girls. So to give them a helping hand, I ‘up’ their protein intake while this is happening.

Semi nude, but those feathers are growing back!

Semi nude, but those feathers are growing back!

I thought this week that I would try and impart some useful info and given the time of year that ‘seed saving’ might be of interest to you up and coming gardeners.

Question is, why would you want to save your own seed when you can conveniently nip down to the local garden centre and buy it already bagged and ready to go? You certainly won’t have to worry about your plants cross pollinating with your own vege or that of your neighbours, nor will you have to spend time drying, bagging and labelling those seeds, a task that can be a often be a tad tedious.

So why do I save seed  – because quite simply, I can!  The seed that I save will grow plants that will be more acclimatised to my garden and I shall also be doing my bit at ensuring the longevity of those wonderful heirloom vege varieties. Sounds like a good reason doesn’t it?

Tomatoes
I shall certainly be saving some tomato seed this year, but interestingly enough not from my heirloom varieties but from a self seeded tom which grew prolifically from a huge box filled with horse pooh. I have no idea of the variety except that it was a tomato machine pumping out quantities of delicious red toms that were extremely ‘tasty’.  An unusual plant that literally crawled along the ground, much of it hidden amongst volumes of kikuyu grass. Each day I would stare at it meaning to hoist it out and of course I didn’t, in fact I didn’t even stake it either which probably accounts for its crawling technique. What I found really interesting though was that it was pest free, no green shield bugs feasting on the ripening fruit, no caterpillars in sight and no blight. Just goes to show, that nature can do just fine when left alone!  I forgot to mention, that most tomato varieties are self pollinating so won’t cross – good!
OK how to save those seeds. Slice the desired tom in half around the middle, scoop out the seeds and pulp. Pop these into a clean jar (I use a glass vessel so I can check on the activity) and an equal amount of water. Cover the jar with some cling wrap, foil or similar but don’t use a screw cap. Place the container in a warm location for about 2 – 3 days so that the solution can ferment. The pulp and any bad seeds (often diseased) will rise to the top of the water,while the good seeds will fall to the bottom of the jar. Discard the pulp, remove the seeds and place them on a paper towel and leave to dry on a windowsill. Once they are dry which will may take several days, it is time to bag and label them. Mine go into envelopes and then into a plastic storage bin and into my fridge .. and no that the one in the kitchen either!

Runner beans
My Painted Lady and Scarlett runner beans enjoyed growing side-by-side on my trellis last summer, which given the fact that they will have crossed is not ideal. They provided me with loads of crunchy green lengths which we ate steamed, wok fried, raw in salads and with the good old traditional roast. How often? Every night for ages. As much as they are delicious, after a time, the thought of another meal with beans just lost its zing. I should have frozen some but I didn’t!

The pods ideally should be allowed to mature fully on the plant and then dry out. Once removed from the plant I left mine on a window sill to dry out further. When they are dry enough they will break if hit with a hammer – not that you want to ‘test’ all your seeds mind you. Once ready, bag them and then pop them in the freezer for  a week, this will kill any weevil eggs which may be present. Remove from the ice dept and then you can store as per usual.

Leeks
Do you remember that gorgeous leek that I had left in situ in the garden? It had the most amazing flower which used to attract a host of insects being especially loved by bumbles. Leeks are an allium as are onions and garlic, they won’t cross with the latter but will happily cross with other leek varieties. So I have moved the giant flower head indoors where the seed is drying nicely. From there I will bag and label it and pop it in the fridge for good storage.

Leek .. perfect spot. Drying out on a windowsill

Leek .. perfect spot. Drying out on a windowsill

Flowers
I always plant flowers in my vege garden and have allocated one bed solely as an insectary. My garden always has borage, phacelia, echium and lemon bergamot which are much loved by the bees (purple is their fav colour – so is mine!) Plus there is always alyssum, calendula, zinnias, salvias, marigolds, cleome, nasturtium and geranium growing in abundance,  doing a host of things from encouraging beneficial insects or discouraging pesky ones to providing food, pollen, nectar and shelter. Then of course there are those that have other purposes be it medicinal … ah how good is nature?

I save my flower seed too of course, not all of it as much is self seeded and grows brilliantly with out any help from me at all!

And what do we have here then?

And what do we have here then?

So that’s it for another week … happy gardening!

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