SAVING VEGETABLE SEEDS:
BENEFICIAL FOR YOU AND THE ENVIRONMENT
In my last column I wrote about the numerous benefits of organic gardening. Knowing that you are providing your family with healthy, safe, delicious vegetables and not hurting the environment in the process is very rewarding.
Another important aspect of growing your own organic vegetables is that you are becoming more self- sufficient. I feel more secure and safe knowing that we are not relying as much on companies for our food. By the time the growing seas on is winding down, we have frozen some vegetables for the winter months and dehydrated others that can be conveniently stored and used when needed.
We have three vegetable gardens, one herb garden, a pumpkin patch, and some strawberry plants and raspberry bushes. Besides providing us with whole some food, these gardens get us outdoors and also are useful for educating our two children about plants, the environment and life. The short lifespan of these vegetables enables us to show Liam and Gleannan the different life stages of plants.
Liam and Gleannan help us to plant the vegetable seeds in May, pick the produce during the summer months, and remove the dead plants from the gardens in the fall. We gather bean seeds from the dried plants. These seedsare planted the following spring as the cycle of life starts anew. Pumpkins provide a similar education as the seeds quickly grow into large plants and pumpkins before dying in the fall. These life lessons are important for our children – and us!
The first step to saving your own vegetable seeds is to make sure that youget appropriate seeds to begin with. The seeds that you grow and save shouldbe suited to the growing conditions in your area. They should also benon-hybrid seeds. When we find seeds that do well in our gardens and which produce vegetables that we are particularly fond of, we plant extra, allowing some plants to be used for seeds for the following years.
Once you’ve selected the varieties of vegetables from which you would like to save seeds, and you’ve planted enough to satisfy both your food needs and future seed needs, you are ready to start learning how to collect and preserve the seeds. Acquiring a good book or two on saving seeds is a goodidea .
Collecting & Storing Seeds
Collecting and storing seeds differs for the various vegetables, but most are both easy to gather and store. For example, beans can be gathered once the leaves have started falling off the plant and the pods are brown. Pullout the plants and hang them in a sheltered spot for a while longer. We hang the bean plants from the rafters in our barn. When the pods are completely dried, we remove the beans from the pods and store them in a cool, dryplace. For large quantities we store the beans in a sealed jar in the freezer or fridge. For smaller quantities we first put the beans in small envelopes before storing them in the sealed jar. We label the jars and envelopes with the names of the vegetables and when they were collected. The length of time that seeds can be stored depends on the kind of vegetable andhow they are stored. Stored properly, beans are viable for planting for four years or more.
A Final Word
Once you start saving seeds from your favorite varieties of vegetables, the vegetables in your garden will not only be convenient to get, healthy and fresh, but very inexpensive as well. Preserving non-hybrid seeds is also agood way to maintain seed diversity. Many heirloom or heritage varieties o fseeds have been around for well over a hundred years. Unfortunately, many of these varieties are lost as seed companies sell hybrid seeds. Diversity can be increased by exchanging seeds with others. Preserving seeds and explaining the benefits of this important practice is also an excellent lesson to teach our children.
Written by: N. Glenn Perrett
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