Tales of a Gardening Novice: Seed-Saving

My first seasons of gardening have been glorious. I’ve plotted, planted, harvested, and plotted again. But what do you do next? As a novice gardener, I’ve found that there are always things to do, particularly if you want to remain as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible. Beginning to save your seeds is as self-sufficient as you can get, though it’s a bit trickier than it sounds.

To start, it is important to purchase seed varieties that are not of the hybrid form. The second generation of these cross-pollinated, saved-seeds produces fruit that is tough and tasteless. Purchasing organic, non-hybrid seeds will aid in reducing the chance of experiencing this outcome, though there are still plenty of factors to consider.

As a beginner, it is important to start small. There are particular varieties of vegetables that are primarily self-pollinated and that begin to produce seeds for saving the first year they are harvested. These plants include: tomatoes, peppers, peas, lettuce, beans, and some varieties of squash.

Seed Saving

Pictured above are the seeds to a butternut squash I have saved, a mostly self-pollinated variety that is likely to produce a wonderful second generation plant!

Now comes the fun part. When harvesting for seed-saving, choose fruits that are your plant’s best-self. Retain these prize-winning seeds and separate them from the flesh of the fruit. Rinse and thoroughly dry them, before spreading them on a cookie sheet or plate. Find an area that is not particularly warm and does not have too much sun. Let the seeds dry completely. Place into a small envelope or jar, marked by the variety of seed contained within.  Store in a cool, dark place.

For more information on particular varieties, and how to save their seeds, I encourage you to visit this website.  It’s a wonderful resource, and does a great job breaking down the basics, and not-so-basics of seed-saving.

For organic seeds that won’t break the bank, try American Meadows, for beautiful seed-saving envelopes check out these, and coming soon: How to Make Your Own Seed-Saving Envelopes.

What about you?  What have been your experiences with seed-saving?

The End of Harvest

This past weekend, I harvested the last bits of bounty from my garden.  I then spent the next several hours turning and preparing my plot for next year, and even marked off an additional area that I will be planting next spring.  The act solidified the coming of winter, and the rapid speed in which we are tearing through fall.  We’ve already experienced a few freezes over night, and I’ve begrudgingly had to scrape frost off of my car windows on more occasions than I am willing to admit to at this time of year.  Even so, the feeling of definite seasons is indescribable.  Frozen toes aside, I wouldn’t trade this for the world!

Coming soon: seed-saving & drying herbs

A few snapshots of the last of my bounty:

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Tales from a Gardening Novice: No 2

A funny thing happened upon our return from vacation– everything in my garden is in bloom, or is at least doing what it is supposed to do. What I may not have told you is that this is my first garden, which means I am truly experiencing a gardening adventure. The only part of my plot that I “planned” was the effort I put into planting beneficial flowers between certain crops, knowing they would attract pollinators. (If you haven’t caught the memo yet, pollinators make the world go round. Love them; attract them; coddle them.) For the majority of the time, however, I have no idea what I’m doing. I am learning by the tried-and-true method of experimentation that I like to call “you win some you lose some.”

Here are some of my garden’s current happenings:

Pole Beans

Pole Beans

The grape tomatoes are on their way to ripening!

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I think this corn has about two more growth stages before it produces ears and can be harvested.

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These daisies are some of my favorite flowers. Their long stems are so enticing.

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Snapdragons

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So, celebrating my garden’s success is a must, because there really is nothing more exciting than seeing your garden flourish after all of the time and worry you put into it! Then again, I really can’t give myself all the credit. I have to thank the soil and the pollinators before I pat myself on the back. Those wee little things make big things possible.

Tales from a Gardening Novice

In truth, I am a gardening novice. I like to think that I have genetically inherited both my grandmother’s and my mother’s innate ability to grow things, but it just isn’t so. The majority of plants that thrive in my garden are low-maintenance, or recurring bulbs and perennials that would have to be seriously neglected in order to fail. Most of the tidbits I’ve learned along the way are due to the loss of a plant. Sad, but true.

On the contrary, composting is one of those garden-y things that I can proudly say I have mastered. I’m a no nonsense compost-er, paying little attention to my pile. Sometimes I water it, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I turn it, mostly I don’t. Sometimes I aerate it, actually no, that’s never happened. Somehow though, my pile of scraps and lawn trimmings still turns into black gold.

It’s the most amazing sequence of events, this whole composting thing. All those little critters living inside are gorging themselves on my “trash,” while simultaneously churning out one of the only good things I can claim I’ve done for my garden.

So here’s to you, you tiny decomposers! Thank you for your poo. I promise to keep feeding you left over flower bouquets, egg shells, coffee grounds, and other various sorts of goodies.

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Scraps I added to my pile, too beautiful not to document.