Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Four reasons to save seeds

Brussels sprouts, going to seed June 2016
This year I'm growing the following solely from my own collected seed:
  • Runner beans, climbing beans and peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Chard
  • Pumpkin (from a local farm, not my own garden)
I grow most of my vegetables from seed;  the main exception are perennials like rhubarb which come back every year--however even some of my perennials, like sorrel, have been grown from seed.  Since I grow a lot of vegetables, this translates to a lot of seeds.  I like to collect my own seed where possible, for a variety of reasons.

Saving money

Let's face it, buying seeds costs money.  Just one or two packets aren't too expensive really, but they can add up especially year after year.  I try to buy seeds on sale, both online and at the garden center, but sometimes I Need Seeds Now, and have to pay full price.  If I paid full price for all my seeds, it would add up to around £30-£50 a year.  I'd much rather save that money and collect my own, for free.

Stronger, more adapted plants

I admit, I'm not the best gardener around.  A lot of my plants don't make it.  In 2014, every single plant and seed that went into my garden died.  All of them!  The only things that hung on were a couple things in planters and raised beds on my patio.  It was a combination of slugs and a soil pH change (due to excessive concrete from the neighbor's new fence)--and just plain bad luck.  It was a sad, sad year for me.

Because there are so many fatalities (and I get these every year), I know the plants that do survive are strong and well-adapted to my garden;  they obviously have good pest and disease resistance, and are vigorous growers.  I want to collect seed from them, since they have a proven track record.

Reliability

I don't mean my saved seeds are more reliable than bought seed (although this is sometimes the case).  However, I have a supply of seeds in case the store doesn't have them.  Sometimes the seeds I want aren't available:  they've sold out, or they've been discontinued.  When I save my own seeds, I don't have to worry about trying to source them every year:   they're in an envelope in my cupboard already!

It's easy

Not only am I not the best gardener, I'm also pretty lazy.  I certainly put in the work in spring when things are getting started, but after that I just want to take the easy route.  It takes effort to drive to the garden center and read the backs of seed packets and compare prices.  It doesn't take much to collect seed:  let the plants flower and then gather the seeds once they're ripe.  Some plants just seed themselves:  even better!  I have self-seeded chard and mizuna all over the place this year, and flowers like nasturtiums, honesty and poppies, too.

True, some seeds need a little more work.  For example, different kinds of brassicas shouldn't be allowed to flower at the same time, to avoid cross pollination;  I choose one brassica per year to save seeds from (Brussels sprouts this year).  And some seeds require a little bit of treatment before saving, like tomato seeds which should be slightly fermented in water before drying out.  But all in all, that tiny bit of extra effort is worth it to have seeds which are reliable, have strong genetics, and are free.

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