Well, as its a time to reflect, there are many things I learned in 2015, I learned how to replace a sub-floor and build a new one, I learned that a certain mix of manure from pigs will cause you major issues in the garden..
But what I want to talk about in this post is growing seed.. saving seed.
Let me tell you a secret, while I do come from a “farming Family” in the sense that I had years in my childhood and youth on farms, that I gardened beside grandma and mom, while I had my own little garden and flower garden at the age of eight onward, what I did not come from was a family of seed savers.
now if my grandparents saved garden seed, I am unaware of it, I know that she saved some flower heads and seeds, that I remember, I remember collecting and saving poppy seeds for baking, I remember grandpa explaining what fruit would come true an what needed to be grafted..
but every single year, my mother would head to the store and buy her seed, and (opps, now I am really letting the cat out of the bag) her started plants.. and she still does, she seemed most interested and at the same time puzzled at my trays of seeds drying all over my kitchen this fall.
I started plants in my late teens and early twenties not because I wanted to but because I could not afford to go buy started plants, in fact on some of my most lean years, I could not afford seeds much either, I would talk to every older lady I could find, put up flyers on community boards and offer to trade my hard work, back and hands for extra plants and for saved seeds.
I learned the hard way that amy composting all winter did was get me a happy black bear in the back yard come spring.. and nothing to help me in the garden area..
That was when I talked to the older ladies yet again and asked for old timer advice and turned to permaculture (without knowing its name) and foraged (again without knowing its name LOL) and I hiked, I would bring home things from the local woods around me, I trapped and used minnows, I hauled home aged moose droppings, I cut and hauled and turned in green crops from the wild, I walked and hiked edges (learning just how amazing edges and I would create what is now called a local food map, that meant, I would track flowering shrubs in the spring and go back for harvests. I even hauled out leaves to add to the gardens, I would trade, in one case I cleaned house, and for another, I baked bread..
I certainly did not get the harvests I do now, and I know why, I did not understand creating micro-climates and I had no idea how to successfully extend seasons.. I was a straight, plant it May long, harvest as it goes and just clean and prepare for next year.. but I did get good harvests none the less, I expect the second area that I did very poorly at, was getting the right seed for the right zone, I remember getting seed given to me, and losing most of the crop to frost, now I would have thought.. what zone was that plant grown in.. but at 24, it never really crossed my mind..
I started saving seeds on the farm, the very first year here, I wanted to reduce costs in the coming years, an then spring on my second year came, and o my, tomato’s self seeded, potato’s self-seeded, and things left to overwinter that in alberta would just have died, started growing again and I was in garden heaven.. suddenly, I started reading and I realized that I could pretty much with care grow anything you could in B.C.
I started saving and I made mistakes and I had success and my ability and knowledge grew, I took courses and bought books, I made pollination cages and so much more..
So when I saw that they wanted seed growers for a project last year I thought, yes, lets do that..
I was given two things to grow, pea’s and beans, the beans where easy, I made the bean teepee, placed it far into the top of the food forest yard area, and planted it with morning glories, scarlet runners and brussel sprouts, it was a loaded area but none that would cross, the beans grew and the harvest is good, I started with 30 beans and I have 400 plus to give back.. they are a bad eating bean, funky to look at, taste bad and are a total pain to shell.. I could not try any of the dried bean for cooking as I want to give all back.
The pea’s however where over producing, got mold and where of mixed breed, I would get poor quality sugar pea’s with a mix of shelling.. I gave up growing my own sugar pea’s, my shelling pea’s and my later season crops in this regards because I needed the iso zone, and I wanted to produce pure seed.. which in the end did not matter.. those pea’s never stopped blooming all summer, but my overall crop was very poor indeed, I did get some seed but I can not in good manner send it in.. as I KNOW its mixed.
But here is the real rub, I gave up growing food for my family for a ideal, that in the end failed.. I was 50 percent successful, but in the end, I could have used the space in a much better way.
In 2016, I will not be growing pure seed for someone else, I will do my landrace projects, I will grow and produce pure seed, and I will freely share it but I will not take the pressure of growing officially for someone else.
I would rather grow extra each year and offer it up in gift, barter and trade form with friends and fellow gardener.
I plan on expanding my seed saving this year, I hope to have many things to offer in the future but it will be on my own terms..
Do you save seed? Have you grown seed for someone else? did you like to do so? Would you do it again? if yes, why and if no, why? Are you taking seed saving courses this year? If so, how did you find the class, was it free or did you need to pay?