Saving seeds

Part of the pleasure of growing your own has to be the smug feeling when you saunter off down the garden or allotment and busily harvest free produce. But what if you went one step further, and actually produced your own seeds… for FREE?

Saving seeds to plant next year is fairly straightforward, but there are just a couple of things to bear in mind before you start. First off, the type of plant you collect seeds from will determine the end product of what actually grows.

For example, if you collected seeds from a ‘heritage’ variety of plant, the odds are you’ll grow something the same or very close as the original plant. Heritage varieties haven’t been genetically modified or mucked about with in any way, so on the plus side they retain their original features. On the minus they may be less hardy to certain pests and diseases.

If the original plant was an F1 (hybrid) variety, this is a man-made species that’s been created from a number of different varieties to incorporate the best from each. So the plant you grow could be very different to the one you harvested the seed from: it could take on the characteristics of any of the plants in the mix.

Simple seeds to begin with include:

Parsnips and carrots – these will flower the year after they have produced the root and greenery. Just leave one or two in the ground for the next season, and they should throw up a flower spike. Simply leave this alone:  after the flowers fade, bunches of seeds begin to form. Once these have started to turn brown, cut off the flower head and place upside down in a paper bag or envelope. Leave in a cool, dry place and the seeds will all dry out and drop off.

Garlic – when you’ve harvested your garlic bulbs for the year and dried them out, set a couple aside for seed.  In late autumn/early winter, simply divide the bulbs and plant each clove about 6 inches apart and just deep enough so the top is showing.

Beans and peas – leave a couple of pods on the plant. At the end of the growing season these will mature and then begin to dry out. Once dry, remove the beans and peas and dry completely on some kitchen towel. Store in a cool, dry place ready for next year.

Salad crops – lettuce and radish can easily ‘bolt’ during the summer, and throw up a flower spike. Just leave it alone until the seed pods begin to form, cut them off and dry upside down in a paper bag or envelope.

Tomatoes – Remove the fleshy insides of tomatoes and wash the pulp off through a sieve. Dry the seeds on sheets of kitchen paper, and once dry, store as above.

So there you have it – with just a little time and effort, it’s possible to grow next year’s crops… for nothing.

Parsnip flower head

Parsnip flower head

This article appeared in The Hinckley Times on 15 August 2013.

 

 

Climate sparks a growth spurt

 

Salad leaves in tyres

Salad leaves in tyres

They say that everything in moderation is the key. Well, it’s certainly appeared to be the case in the garden. A bit of sun, a bit of rain, a bit of sun… and Hey Presto! The garden has positively burst into life and I am convinced that some of the plants have actually doubled in size the last week or so. On the down side the weeds have also started to pop up with a vengeance. So the first job of the weekend was to whip round with the hand hoe and finish them off whilst they are still tiny and easy to get out. Left to grow, they are nigh on impossible to get rid of.

Broad beans

Broad beans

Elsewhere in the garden though, it’s all good news. The broad beans are romping away, and the brassica bed is bursting with life. In the greenhouse, my courgette and squash plants were looking a tad big for their pots, so I decided to bite the bullet and plant them out. After the disaster with the runner beans though, I’ve erred on the side of caution and planted just half of them out, in case we get a late frost.

In addition, I’ve sowed mixed salad leaves in a tyre, to use as ‘cut and come again’ salad, but cheated ever so slightly. Whilst waiting for the seeds to grow, I’ve bought a tray of living salad from the supermarket, and planted that in there.

I’m also delighted to say that all six rows of potatoes have pushed through the ground and have lush, green leaves showing… which means it’s time to start earthing them up. This is simply covering the green growth with soil, ensuring any potatoes are well under the ground, and won’t be exposed to light. If the light gets to them, it turns them green, and therefore makes them inedible.

Brassicas and potatoes

Brassicas and potatoes

There’s just one tiny hiccup in our garden. We’ve had new raised beds and all the available soil we had has gone in them. So there’s no spare earth to be earthing up with. Luckily for me, our local garden centre sells soil that you bag up yourself, so off I whizzed at the weekend to fetch some for our beds. I have to admit I had a bit of a sweat on after I’d loaded up the bags, manhandled them into the boot, ferried them home and mounded the mud over the spud crop. Whilst I was busy with that, the other half whipped up and down the lawn with the mower.

I read an article in the week saying that gardeners can burn up to 19,000 calories per year. Apparently, three hours of gardening can be the equivalent to an hour-long slog in the gym, and just half an hour of weeding can burn up to 150 calories.

Good news indeed. With all that activity this weekend, we’re surely in calorie credit: That après-gardening ice cold beer positively slipped down – guilt free.

The Hinckley Times 23 May 2013

The Hinckley Times 23 May 2013