Seed saving in the garden
The veggie garden looks dry and raggedy at this time of the year. Well, apart from this week when we’ve had much needed rain. So now it’s looking wet and raggedy.
The reason it looks so bad is that alot of the plants have flowered and I leave them to it so I can collect the seeds. I’m always trying new plants in the veggie garden but the bulk are grown from seed which I collect each year. This means I leave one or two of the salad type plants along with peas, beetroot and leeks to flower and go to seed. They’re left for a few weeks to really dry out before I bring the seed stalk inside. The bees love some flowers more than others – eg kale, parsley, rocket so if the plant has started to go to seed before I’ve managed to stop it (by pinching out the flowers) I just leave it for them to enjoy rather than pulling the plant out. The leaves of some plants turn bitter once they start flowering – lettuce and coriander in particular which is why you generally don’t want leaf and root plants to flower. Unlike tomatoes, cucumber etc which need to flower to produce the ‘fruit’.
Last year I let some of the leeks go to seed and they dropped the seed everywhere (mostly because I didn’t bother to dead head them). I tend to think that plants can manage to grow and reproduce on their own – unfortunately when and where they choose to do it doesn’t always suit my needs. Self sown plants should go on to be hardy and suited to the conditions and I admire their determination so I try to let it happen where I can. The leek seeds did germinate and grew without me doing anything though I don’t like their chances of getting very big growing in my path. Fortunately I took some of the tiny seedlings and transplanted them into a proper garden bed where I can keep them fed and watered. I do need some of them to get big and fat rather than hardy battlers! Letting them self sow did save me a job of starting the seeds out in pots so I’m curious to see if this lot will also keep me supplied with leek seedlings.
I’ve been growing several varieties of beans which are destined for the pot – they’ll dry on the plant, I’ll shell them and keep them as dried beans for stews and so on. Some of the plants have grown better than others and I’ve yet to harvest and cook these ones but I’m hoping for good results. Most of the dried beans I buy seem to be imported and I’ve no idea how old they are so I’m keen to know what my fresh organic beans are like in comparison.
One of my plants doesn’t seem to want to go to seed despite the hot weather – check out my beetroot picture. I had a few chioggia beetroot plants that didn’t form a tuber and I needed the space – I pulled them up and threw what was mostly leaf around my garlic as mulch. By the time I realised one was growing it was too late and the beetroot itself had got too big to be worth eating so I left it to go to seed. In theory. Months later it’s now at an almost grotesque size and is not going to seed. I’ve been happy to use the leaves in salads but I wonder is this a new form of salad plant rather than a beetroot!?
I also let my cavolo nero kale plants flower and go to seed. Although the plants fell over the path under their own weight the bees absolutely loved them so I got use to stepping over them until I could collect the seed. I’d let these get too dry and when I picked the pods they burst apart with dryness and scattered on the ground so I had to use a container under them to shake the dry seed pods into. Fortunately I really only need to collect a dozen or so seeds to make sure I’ve got enough to carry on with. This meant I could finally get rid of the plants. They’d got so big and I struggled to pull them out of the ground so I cut the stalks back near the base. Several weeks later the kale has re-sprouted – making me think this plant could be treated more like a perennial (like rhubarb and silverbeet) which would be easier and quicker than needing to replant it each year.