I’m becoming completely taken over by my desire to grow seeds. I am greedily looking through a multitude of seed catalogues and saying to myself, “we should grow that!” How many plants can I reasonably grow? How many varieties can I keep? Why not a little of everything? Why not four varieties of everything?
My partner and I have a 2 acre market garden on Salt Spring Island called Heavenly Roots. We want to incorporate seed saving into our business, mostly to produce more of the seed we need for vegetable production. I’ve selected a series of crops to grow for our own market use next year, varieties that we grow large quantities of and require an abundance of seed. This summer we’re focusing on lettuce, radish, and tomatoes, with as many other seed saving projects as time and space permit. We’re also growing some Snow pea, Soup pea, Dry beans, Tomatillo, Armenian cucumber, Lentil, Quinoa and Turnip.
I’ve found the planning stages to be quite rewarding. I’m trying to get a good handle on the latin names of crops and understand mating systems so that I can make the right choices for our location. One of our farm locations has a community garden as its next door neighbor, so we are limited in the outcrossing plants we can grow for seed. I have a lot to learn about harvesting and cleaning dry seeded crops, which I have never tried before.
My mentor is Rupert Adams. Rupert and I first met while I was looking for speakers for Salt Spring Island’s Seedy Saturday, and we have since become more acquainted through our new Mentor/Mentee relationship. Rupert and I have talked about a number of topics pertaining to seed growing: Growing plants with the intention of seed production, isolating the crops, selection and rouging techniques and philosophies, the possibility (or lack of possibility) for incorporating market garden harvests into seed production. He grows vegetable crops for seed and specializes in growing medicinal plants, making tinctures and producing their seeds. He runs Kairos Botanicals and offers medicinal plant seeds in partnership with Salt Spring Seeds.
I visited him there quite early in the year and was able to see a few of his plant projects on the go. He was growing two plants I have never seen before: Milk Thistle and Chinese Rhubarb. At Salt Spring Seeds they grow a large variety of legumes including peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas and favas. I’m becoming increasingly interested in these crops too. Salt Spring Seeds is a beautiful place and I look forward to spending more time there once the harvest season begins.
For now, I am eagerly awaiting the change in our plants, and the change in our practice. Perhaps I’ll no longer look at a growing seed stalk with terror.