"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Beginning Of Anything

We ordered seeds early this year. I was afraid if the economy worsened there might be a run on seeds. Actually I bought enough for next year also...just in case. Is anyone else nervous about this?

I narrowed my choices down to three companies, Fedco, Baker Creek Heirloom, and Ed Hume. This was done from past experience regarding quality, quantity, and price. These three companies normally meet all those standards. Baker Creek and Ed Hume seeds arrived within days of ordering, both came in good packaging and the full order arrived. Fedco seeds arrived on time and were shipped in proper packaging. The package that items are shipped in is very important when you live in Idaho and sometimes find your deliveries buried in the snow. Anyway, I was not at all pleased with Fedco's individual seed packets this year. Some of the seeds had dribbled out of their packets into the bottom of the shipping box and some of the items were back ordered...not pleased at all.

We save more and more of our seeds every year but are still at the mercy of seed companies for some. Most are stored in various plastic and glass containers. I find that salad dressing bottles work well but we do save a large amount of seed. Small containers such as pill and vitamin bottles or even envelopes work good for lesser amounts. Tomato seeds are dried on small screens and then stored in individual envelopes. I don't ferment them as mine seem to last longer if the outer coating is left on the seeds and they dry more naturally.

Saved seed is kept in a cool back room in various containers that I keep in well marked boxes and totes so that they are readily available.

I won't go into details on how to save seed here as this subject can be quite complex or very simple depending upon what seeds are being saved and a variety of other conditions and factors. A good book for this information is "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth and Kent Whealy. Or you can go to one of the best free online seed saving documents I have come across at http://cityfarmer.org/Neighborgardens.html and click on "Saving Vegetable Seeds In An Urban Garden" for a 32 page document on the subject.

One thing I have noticed is that the longer we save certain seeds the better they seem to adapt to our particular environment. For example, my Black Krim tomatoes have become one of my earliest varieties and also one of the last harvested in the fall. When I received my first black Krim tomato plant many years ago (thanks Dorothy) it was a mid season tomato susceptible to blight in the fall...not anymore.

The biggest and a rather unexpected benefit of letting things go to seed has been all the kale, mustard, strawberry spinach, sunflowers, boc choy and others that come up on their own all over the garden. We have not had to plant red mustard or purslane in years.

Below is a red lettuce who's name has been long forgotten but comes up every year all over the garden, as long we allow for it's full life cycle to be completed.

The end goal is to save all of our own seeds within the next 5 years. It is a lofty goal as our environment is not conducive for seed saving. At this point I am able to save all of my "must have" crops, such as beets, parsnips, beans, peas, carrots (a work in progress),

potatoes, squash, turnips, tomatoes, various winter greens, and so on. Hopefully, I will one day reach self-sufficiency not only in food but also seed.

12/16/2010 update:

We now ferment our tomato seeds as it allows for better germination. Also, we have managed to save seeds off most everything we grow now including carrots. That said, I am still working on a good/better system that will allow us to save a diverse variety of seeds from the same plant familys using a 5 year seed saving rotation...more on this later.


Susan said...

Sorry to hear about the bad order. I saved some tomato seed from my first best black Krim tomatoes last season and am looking forward to them being being better aclimated to my area. I saved some anasazi beans to eat but am now wondering if I can use them as seed too.

Mr. H said...

Hello Susan,

I think you will be really happy in a couple of years with your black krim seed saving results. What a great tomato. We tested some black beans the other day simply by putting them between a couple of paper towels and wetting with warm water, 6 days later they had sprouted. The trick is to keep them a bit damp and not to cold. If the beans were mature enough when you saved them they should be viable. Here is a good link on testing seeds for germination.

Thanks for stopping by

anne said...

Hi M. Hats,
Are those purple dragon carrots, or haze, or another variety? I've grown dragons for years ans see they have disappeared (xcept Seeds of Change) from the seed cats. in favour of haze...

Mr. H said...

Hi Anne,

Hope you have recovered from your fall, we have been doing the ice dance around here also.

Unfortunatly, for the sake of seed saving, those are Purple Haze Hybrid's. This year I will again grow some purple haze because they did so well for me. I will also be trying Cosmic purple from Ed Hume Seeds and Purple dragon from John Sheepers because I need to start saving my own purple carrot seeds.

Last year was the First year I grew purple carrots and I can't get enough of them. I hope the heirlooms taste as good as Haze has.

Granola Girl said...

When shrunken down into the small little thumbnail, the image of the plastic container with seeds spilling out looked so similar to the way you purchase marijuana here in the city. My first though was, "Is he growing pot, too?" and then "It seems a bit risky to post about it on the Internet."

Now I see that perhaps I've spent a bit too much time around at-risk high school students :)

Mr. H. said...

Granola Girl - You are too funny, when I was a wee lad the stuff came in little baggies...

If I was a drug dealer or grower I would certainly not be displaying my product on a public blog.:) Or maybe I would...after a few to many hits off the peace pipe I might not know any better.

Looks like I need to update this post a bit as some of my views on seed saving have changed.

Anonymous said...

Sustainable seed co dot com is working very good for me. They ship fast and I never had a problem. I like the picture of the vegetable right on the front of the package and they don't have it. That it is the only minus.

Loved your site.


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