Mentee Blog # 2 – Ashton Sweetnam
So far this season, seed saving has not come particularly naturally to our regular farming practices and systems, but it does generally feel like a great contribution our ability to farm in the holistic way that we aspire to. By taking seed saving into consideration, we pay greater attention to the health of our plants at the seedling stage, and notice as they are growing details like plant vigor and disease resistance- traits that might not catch our attention otherwise. It has been exciting to be growing seeds that will produce plants that are adapted to our specific weather, soil and water conditions.
My shelves are filling with paper bags full of seeds for next years crops. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks when I can begin to prepare them for winter storage by cleaning and sorting them and transferring them into their final storage vessels. Each time that I notice that another crop is about to complete it’s cycle I pull out my seed books and start reading up on them. Sometimes I’m disappointed to discover that I’m not able to save that particular seed because of unacceptable isolation distances, hybridization, or a lack of seed worthy candidates. More often though, I happily grab my seed gathering receptacle and gather as much seed as inspiration leads me to.
My partner Ian warily observes my seed gathering adventures, following behind and desperately working to prevent my seed bearing plants from becoming next year’s weeds. As I lovingly tend to the life producing plants, insisting that hand watering take place in the adjacent beds so that the seeds aren’t negatively impacted by sprinklers, interns gracefully bring out the watering wands and bite their tongues. My afternoons spent pouring over seed books and manuals are sometimes to the detriment of our carefully kept records, which easily take the backseat when a more interesting seed based problem comes about.
I managed to harvest a number of seed crops before the rain came, though a good many were still in the ground. A good quantity of the cilantro seed succumbed to mildew, and the dry green beans were forgotten and abandoned in a bed at the end of the field. To be honest the weather was the last of my worries with my seed crops. More treacherous dangers included well meaning helpers accidently pulling up these “finished” crops in order to reseed the beds, and even more helpful babies who have learned to shake the plants so as to watch the fluffy seeds fly away.
I look forward to harvesting seed from some of the longer term crops in the near future like winter squash, eggplant, and tomatoes. Since it’s my first year in this new location and we’re not planting any perennials or even biennials yet, I won’t be saving seed from any plants that require more than one season to produce seed, like onions or carrots.
Next in my seed adventures comes ‘what to do with the darn things once this season has completed’. Is there any way to make money selling seed?