“Hey, try these bean seeds. My family has been growing them for over 100 years.”
The wizened pods didn’t look like much, but they represented a tradition that has been passed on for millennia.
Gardeners have been storing and sharing seeds for more than 10,000 years. This has given them the opportunity to ensure there will be seed for the following year and preserve varieties that suit the personal tastes of the gardeners, and the soil and climate of the gardens.
In recent years, there has been a significant decline in the variety of vegetable seeds available. Agri-business has crept into the seed market, and today just four companies control 60 per cent of the seed sales world wide. Over the past 70 years the seed varieties available to gardeners has dropped by more than 90 per cent.
The pandemic has led to increased prices and shortages of seed, and many gardeners have been frustrated by late-delivery and sold-out varieties in their orders.
Saving seed from your garden doesn’t require a lot of knowledge or special equipment. By following a few steps, you can save seed for your own use and sharing with fellow gardeners.
Select suitable varieties. All vegetables and herbs produce seed, but some are more suitable for saving. Tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, cucumbers, corn and squash top the list. Be sure to plant open-pollinated varieties and avoid hybrid (F-1 or F-2) types, as these will not produce offspring that are true to the parent plant.
Choose the best sample for saving seeds. The vegetable, herb or flower that you choose for seed should be free of disease and well-formed. Leave it on the plant until completely dry, or in the case of tomatoes, super-ripe. The longer the seed is on the plant, the more energy it will store for growth.
Collect and dry the seeds. Different types of plants require slightly different techniques, but generally, seeds are removed from the pod or plant and set on paper towel to dry completely.
Store the seeds in a cool dry place. Small preserving jars are ideal. If you are not sure how dry the storage spot is, place a small amount of silica gel in the bottom of the jar. Be sure to close the jar tightly and include a note with variety and date of harvest.
The Haliburton County Public Library supports seed saving through its Haliburton Seed Library. Seeds from up to 60 varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers are available free of charge at the Minden, Dysart and Wilberforce branches. An honour system is in place, and patrons are asked to add seed from their own garden at the end of the growing season.
According to Hillary Montgomery, HCPL programming and outreach coordinator, “The two main benefits of local seed libraries are that they support food security by providing an affordable option for growing fresh food, and they promote biodiversity by helping locals grow a wider range of plants and produce.”
To learn more about seed saving and the seed library, attend the Seed Saving workshop at the Minden Hills branch on Aug. 20 at 2 p.m. Call (705) 457-1791 for more information or see www.haliburtonmastergardener.ca/event/seed-saving-free-workshop/.
Submitted by Maureen Moore