Vegetable gardens are exploding in popularity this spring. Our current shared experience of sticking close to home, encountering empty grocery shelves and hearing of supply chain interruptions has lit a fire under those with interest in growing food and a bit of space to do it. The importance of being able to lessen one’s grocery bill with home provisions is more vital than ever.
If you have found the seeds you want to grow, planting them soon with an eye to saving some of your harvest for seeds this fall is a wise and economical practice. Not surprisingly, planning your garden in advance around your desire to save seeds later ensures success.
What follows are a few tips to consider to get a full harvest.
Use only open-pollinated, untreated, non-GMO, non-hybrid varieties of seeds. Pay attention to whether you are planting annuals or biennials, as this indicates in which year the seeds will be available for harvest. You will need to mulch and hold over biennials to the second growing season.
Check the scientific names on seed packets. Genus is the first name; species is the second. Different vegetables with the same genus and species name will potentially cross pollinate resulting in seeds that are not true to either parent. For examples, broccoli (Brassica Oeleracea) and brussel sprouts (Brassica Oleracea) share the same names which tells they will need half a mile of separation in your garden to avoid cross pollination. The easiest way to ensure saving pure seeds from its parent plant is to only plant one type of vegetable with the same scientific name per year. Isolation or distancing when planting is the next best way to avoid problems.
Self-pollinating vegetables like peas, beans, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are ideal to begin seed saving as they require little in the way of separation and seldom cross.
Through the season
If cross-pollinating vegetables were not separated by distance properly when planting, physical barriers or mechanical means must be used to protect the fertilization process when the plant is flowering. Online research will provide suggestions for all these required methods.
Make sure to weed out weak, ugly or mutated plants when they first appear. Save the seed from early ripening, strongest-looking plants that have fully matured.
The important first step is to select hearty seeds to dry thoroughly. Do not rush this process. Many plants can be hung upside down indoors for weeks to finish. Use clean small containers to label with the seed name and year collected, then store in cool, dry conditions. Use your personal seed bank to grow seeds that would cross on alternate years.
Currently, the Boundary Seed Bank has lettuce, beet, orach, kale, and a variety of bean seeds in small supplies that require growing out this year to refresh our supply. If you need any of these seeds, we’d be happy to share them with you and ask only that you save some of the seeds from this fall’s harvest to return to the Bank. Call Jan Westlund at 250-442-4809 to find out more.
Want to be a Seed Steward?
Already a seed saver? The Boundary Seed Bank is looking to start a database of local gardeners already saving their own seeds.
A seed steward is someone who has agreed to continue saving their most-valued seeds with a willingness to share excess with the community as requested. By listing their favourite seeds with our digital data bank, we will track the location of varieties that are proven as stock for a de-centralized community seed source.
Join the database by connecting with Westlund at firstname.lastname@example.org, 250-442-4809, or Erin Perkins at email@example.com, 250-584-4612.
Gardening and Seed Saving Talks
Connect with local gardeners in two virtual talks hosted by the Grand Forks & District Public Library.
On Thursday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m., jump online for a Virtual Garden Talk with other local garden enthusiasts and Filbelly Farms owner Sarah Orlowski to learn more about permaculture gardening, harvesting rainwater and more.
Another discussion focussing on seed saving, harvesting, garden planning and the local seed bank will be held the following week on Thursday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m., also via Zoom. This event will be facilitated by local gardener, Boundary Seed Bank Committee member and Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy Community Literacy Coordinator Erin Perkins, from her home solarium where she will walk you through the seed saving process and show you how easy it is to grow out your own seeds.
To join please install Zoom at https://zoom.us. To get the event link email Lizanne Eastwood of the Grand Forks library at firstname.lastname@example.org.