Seed Mentee Blog #2 – Kaleigh Barton
This season our farm has saved seed from green beans, turnips, kale, radish, snow-pea, soup pea, dry beans, sweet pepper, broad bean, cucumber, Armenian cucumber (melon), tomatillo, ground cherry and tomato. We’re also reserving beets and rutabaga to grow seed next spring. For some of these crops our ability to isolate has been a bit dubious, but I am happy for the experience with the process of seed growing. I am getting to know the plants we deal with on a whole other level.
For the most part, we were able to save our seed crops before the rain. Our radish, peas, and turnips were finished much earlier in the season, though waiting for our dry beans to DRY was hair-raising and I learned a lot during this process. We grew several varieties which were all at different stages of maturity when the rain began. At first I didn’t know what to do. Some beans were entirely dry, and I was able to take them home to thresh during a sunny window. The rest were only partially dried, and I pulled the plants to hang in the greenhouse. These ones ended up being far easier when it came time to thresh as a result of being even drier. I’ve learned there is a difference between dry, and really really dry. Our island is blessed and cursed with humid air, so I’ve found that the only real way to guarantee something is super dry is to give it some time in our greenhouse. Even after threshing pods that seemed dry, the beans themselves needed further drying still. I must admit that I found myself unprepared in terms of seed threshing, drying, and cleaning equipment. After this experience of doing the work in clunky, inefficient ways, I have some ideas about what I may need in order to grow more dry seeded crops: racks for drying, more greenhouse space, multiple sizes of screens etc.
I think the recent rains may have in some cases created undue urgency to harvest seed crops. We’ve had many sunny days since, and after speaking with Rupert about gauging seed maturity, I think I could have left our green beans in the field longer to allow them to mature more fully. They were also cut and dried in our greenhouse. The beans look like the beans I planted, but I don’t know what is going on inside of them!
This kind of weather makes a seedsperson pretty tickled with the wet seeded crops. We’ve been happily watching as our lemon cucumbers swell up like balloons and freaking out our Wwoofers with fermenting tomato fruit fly fiestas on the front porch.
In other seed-related news, I attended a workshop in Pablo, Montana this month that was offered by NOVIC (Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative) on plant breeding. I was able to see variety trials of red onions, nantes carrots, green beans and the “Who gets Kissed” sweet corn project replicated on four different farms in the area. The farmers were part of a seed co-op called “Triple Divide” and they were looking out for varieties which produced reliably in their area and suited their market needs. I was able to build on what I learned in Nanaimo at John Navazio’s workshop about setting up a trial and interpreting the results.
I also learned more about how to improve a plant variety in a systematic way. Having this time getting comfortable with the language and concepts of seed production and learning from experts and enthusiasts has been so great. I don’t yet know how I will interact with this information in the future, though like I said, it is adding a whole new dimension to my experience of growing plants.Well, I could go on and on forever. There is so much to tell, to muse upon, and to ask questions about. I’ll attach some photos in lieu of more text!
Take care everyone,