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Jessica Nelson
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For me, it started with a bean.
No ordinary bean, True Red Cranberry is listed on the Slow Food Ark of Taste, and deservedly so. It's truly delicious, as well as prolific. And, this year, unavailable.
I can only infer that there is just a single seedstock grower for it, and they must have had a crop failure last year; despite being listed by several seed vendors, all were out of stock this January. I resigned myself to not growing one of my favorites this year -- and then I found it. A reused plastic container, stashed in the drawer where I carelessly keep leftover seeds, contained three pods, twenty-odd seeds of my prized Cranberry Beans!
"Crisis" averted, but it was a much-needed reality check. I'd been completely dependent on seed companies to ensure my supply. Even as I moved toward more perennials, and installing permaculture gardens/food forests, I had a huge gap in the system (most of my trees and shrubs are a few years out from being really productive). I rarely saved seeds, and I was using varieties developed for a national market, not my specific climate.
Needless to say, I'm changing my ways. My new mindset is to act as if I'll never be able to order seed again. (Not saying that I won't order, just not counting on it.) I'm saving my own seed, and more importantly, selecting strains for my unique growing area. I'm also planning to produce landraces of many crops, so I have the diversity available for making it through wet years, dry years, hot, cold, etc..
I'm assuming I'm late to the party, so I'd love to hear from others about how you are tailoring your seed supplies for long-term survival. What are some best practices that are working for you?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
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Jessica Nelson wrote:so I'd love to hear from others about how you are tailoring your seed supplies for long-term survival. What are some best practices that are working for you?


Seed storage for me is mostly in glass jars with steel lids. I have lost more seeds to mice than any other thing. Mice can't get into glass jars. Seeds store best if very dry. I cycle them through the freezer to kill bugs which are the second most common way that I have lost seeds. It sucks to drop a bottle and break it, but that's easier to recover from than a mouse attack.

I keep some seeds in the freezer. Their life expectancy that way is longer than my lifetime. But freezer space is limited, so most get stored in the spare bedroom which also happens to be the coolest room in the house.

I lose a lot of seeds to being disorganized. There doesn't appear to be a cure for that ailment in my life.

 
Jessica Nelson
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Thanks for your input! I will definitely stick with glass.
Are there any types of seeds that can't tolerate freezing? I'm thankful to be in a subtropical area, so some varieties around here are a bit tender. I've always been afraid that freezing would kill the fetal growies; I'm glad to hear that's working well for you!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
498
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
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Jessica Nelson wrote:Are there any types of seeds that can't tolerate freezing?


Tropical seeds. And seeds that can't tolerate being dehydrated: Because the seeds have to be dry in order to survive freezing. I grow only temperate seeds, so I don't have experience with seeds that can't be frozen.

 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 363
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Joseph, great picture; that's a lot of seeds!

I save some in jars, and some in folded scraps of paper, kept on the highest shelf in my kitchen cupboard: out of reach of mice, thankfully.

I only have a small garden and I try to save seed, but cross-pollination is an issue for me. I still save the seed from things like brassicas, but generally use those seeds in the chicken paddocks, rather than for my own vegetable production. Last year was a terrible gardening year for me, but I managed to save about a dozen each of pea seeds and sunflower seeds, and I still had leftover seed from the previous year's chard and arugula. Not much! But very happy to see them sprouting and growing, and I hope to save more seed this year.
 
Jessica Nelson
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"I only have a small garden and I try to save seed, but cross-pollination is an issue for me. "
You bring up an interesting point, Galadriel. I'm actually starting to wonder if being so careful about avoiding cross-pollination really makes sense to me. Certainly I don't want radishes crossing into my cauliflower, but maybe I really DO want the muskmelons crossing into the honeydews. If I had no access to seed other than what I had saved, I think I would be better off with homegrown landrace crops to preserve some genetic diversity, rather than worrying so much about keeping purity in the various breeds I had acquired.
I would love to hear other opinions on this!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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The first thing I do when I start growing a new species or variety is to creolize it: get rid of the purity... I figure that the more often I play the genetic lottery the more often I'm likely to find something that works really well here.

I keep the bare minimum of isolation such as not allowing the hot peppers to grow with the sweet peppers, but other than that, pretty much anything goes in my garden.

I think that worries about keeping things pure is the #1 reason why people don't save seeds. Growing creolized varieties eliminates worries about purity.

A few years ago I allowed a lady some space to grow a garden in one of my fields. She would tour my garden and frequently ask, "What variety is this?" the answer was always the same: "Joseph's ________", whatever the species she happened to be asking about. Or if it was a species for which I'm growing several different varieties: "Joseph's Cherry Tomatoes", and "Joseph's Large Tomatoes".

Here's what my sweet peppers look like: Nothing hot allowed in my garden.



 
Galadriel Freden
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Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Maybe I should clarify what has been a cross-pollination issue for me.

I have had chard cross with beets in the past, giving a plant which forms little to no root, and bitter greens--the worst traits of both parents.

I have had broccoli cross with cabbage, giving me some inconsequential offspring with small, tough leaves; no heads, no big flowering stalks. I can still broadcast these seeds in areas for chicken forage; they quite like them, and the beet-chard cross.

I have had good seed from cross-pollinated peas, runner beans, dahlias, marigolds, nicotiana, poppies and sweet peas. They all kept desirable traits, and still gave me the same kind of yields their parents did. I have also had good results with self seeded, cross-pollinated tomatoes aka volunteers, although I generally only get the first generation (not subsequent generations), as I'm not in a good climate for tomatoes: too rainy.

I agree with you Jessica, on the so-called purity of strains. It's not the name that's important, but the traits, for sure.

Joseph, I think your array of peppers is fantastic! And I like your way of naming
 
Jessica Nelson
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Galadriel, thanks for the clarification. I think you've teased out what works and what to avoid.

I'm thinking that with brassicas and the like, my best bet is separating the flowering by time, i.e. I let my radishes seed out last year, so this year it will be broccoli. Easy enough when we tend not to let them finish out their lifecycles anyway. Fruiting crops can go crazy.

Joseph, your peppers are beautiful! I like your term "creolize" - are you in Louisiana? Thanks for your photos, they really help convey what you're up to. It looks like you've been pretty successful!

As an aside, I'd like to mention that one of my favorite side benefits of permaculture has been discovering other ways to eat our garden crops. I planted a radish this year in the midst of other salad crops that has leaves that look like cos lettuce (so of course I nibbled them). They are really crisp and juicy like lettuce, with a very moderate pepperiness, sort of like a really mild arugula. After a few bites I realized what it must be and, sure enough, purple radish down below. None of the tough-and-prickliness I expect from radish leaves, but I might never have tried them if I were row cropping. Constant discovery keeps the food forest fascinating for me!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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If I wasn't careful, I'd have sweet corn crossing with popcorn. That's another cross that brings together the worst of both varieties. I grow them in separate fields.

Even a small seed crop can produce enough seed for decades worth of future planting. And most varieties easily have a shelf-life of 5 years if stored dry and not hot. So seed for beets could be grown one year, and seed for chard the next.

The brassicas and squashes can be problematic, because there are so many different physical traits associated with the same species, and sometimes even inter-species hybrids. Some squash, such as the Moschatas I allow anything-goes. With the pepo squash I am very particular. I grow only crookneck in one field. Then I grow only zucchini in a different field. Culling is my friend in that case: chopping out anything that doesn't conform to specifications.


Sometimes a place creates a word that perfectly describes a phenomena: Gold star to Louisiana for "Creole". There are varieties of radish that have been selected specifically for greens. Much like the Bok-Choi/Turnip separation. Same species, but you'd never know it by looking at them.


 
Dawna Clephas
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Location: Craig County, VA
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Joseph, some of my squash continued producing one year well beyond the point where I'd finished harvesting.   I don't recall the types I'd planted that time--some summer, some winter. Anyway, some matured and spilled ripe seed into the soil. The next year I was excited about these volunteers, but what the produced was hard and inedible --almost like gourds. 

I find that volunteer tomatoes seem to revert to tiny, intensely flavorful fruits I really treasure. Corn that field - crosses results in tough kernels with little sugar.  And saved lettuce seeds vary widely--the mescluns seem to reproduce truest to the parents.

The safest method is to keep different members of the same families far enough apart to eliminate wind and most bee cross-pollination...no easy task.
 
stephen lowe
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Jessica, I'm all with you on the novel uses of food crops. For me it was a year of market gardening where radishes and greens were pretty well spent and the fruiting crops weren't in yet and I was pacing the field trying to think of what weeds we could call greens or tea when I tasted a radish seed pod. BOOM! what is this awesome spicy pea?!?! now, radish seed pods are one of my favorite veggies, great fresh and maybe even better in a stir fry. This thread just might inspire me enough to breed my own variety of 'seed radish'!
 
Dawna Clephas
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Location: Craig County, VA
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stephen lowe wrote: I was pacing the field trying to think of what weeds we could call greens or tea'!


I hear you-- I'm 16 miles from town, so if I'm cooking and don't have everything in the recipe, I start scavenging outside.
I'm not a huge fan of raw radishes but am intrigued enough to try the seed pods now.  I love the tops in cream soups.  And last year I started roasting the roots, which mellowed them.  Delicious, like pale pink, very juicy turnips.  Could make customers out of a whole new base!
 
Dawna Clephas
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Does anyone have thoughts about which seeds need to be scarified or otherwise pretreated to produce the best germination rates?

I recall this was an issue with ginseng seeds.
 
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