Natasha Flue

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since Dec 20, 2016
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Recent posts by Natasha Flue

I am moving more and more towards a system where I only keep one jar of seed for each variety/species (at least on varieties that maintain their viability for years). So for example with dry bush beans, I'll decide how much bean seed I want to save for planting, and for an archive, and for sharing, and I'll save that much seed. With beans, it might be a two quart jar. Then each year, after harvest, I'll dump out all but 1/3 of the seed in the jar, and refill with fresh seed. So that keeps seed around from previous years, but I don't have to keep track of it separately. Then I eat the excess seed, or feed it to animals, or donate it, or whatever. I'm cautious to do germination testing before adding seed willy-nilly to the common seed lot.  

This is a really excellent idea and definitely interesting! It seems like it would be a good strategy for something like my beans, where I don't necessarily care about the year to year variations, just that I've got plenty to plant for this year and I'll keep some around in case of crop failure.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have all kinds of seeds laying around from before I adopted this strategy. They do not bring me joy. Therefore, as I sort through them, I am feeding them to the chickens, or tossing them into the wildlands so that they can attempt to grow.

I've already got a bunch of seed from various things that I need to trade/give away/get rid of so I'm in a similar situation, plus three years of beans from four different varieties, so things are adding up very quickly!

Thanks Joseph!
1 year ago

For 20 year storage it can be dried down and frozen. Dry it further, then freeze in a tightly sealed container. Bring to room temp before opening.

I don't actually see a reason to keep seeds in a freezer for 20 years. One, my freezer isn't probably going to last that long and two, genetic shifting in my populations are going to keep adapting my varieties so in 20 years, it might be a lot different. Granted, inbreeders aren't going to change that much but I just don't really see a reason. Plus my growing conditions and methods are probably going to change a lot over time. My freezer space has better uses for things I will eat within the next year or so.

I'm talking about year to year hanging onto seed. Do I need to keep a cup of bean seed from 2016 when I've got a quart grown out in 2018 that I will set some aside in case of crop failure?
1 year ago

Once you start saving seed you end up with much more seed than you need.  One way to keep your genetic diversity up is to collect less seed but do it from more plants/fruits.  Then mix multiple years seed together when you plant.  That way fewer of the seeds will be "related" and you'll have more diversity.  

Yeah, that's why I was thinking about planting the older seed. I might do this or maybe wait until I get another year or two of seeds before planting the mix.

One advantage to storing seed over multiple years is that you can maintain varieties that cross-pollinate, like corn or squash, by simply growing one variety one year and another the next, and alternating thus indefinitely, keeping both varieties pure.  Since these seeds easily store for several years, you could keep three or four varieties indefinitely, and also reserve a season to plant two and experiment with letting the cross, etc.

That's true. I'm a little less concerned about this because I don't grow a ton of varieties I care about that cross pollinate a lot. This is the first year I'll be saving squash seed but I will definitely have to hand pollinate due to my parents' pumpkin crops being nearby. I guess to some extent it will come down to what I want from the crops, which right now is food and fun and how much effort I'm really likely to put into hand pollinating things. And I like having the consistency of certain crops every year. This is a really good idea though!
1 year ago
I grow my own because it's fun! I really enjoy being out with the plants, even though it's on the weekends and it's a haul to drive down. The work is fun, the plants are great and I enjoy looking back at the photos over winter and seeing how things grow. Another reason is that the food I grow tastes better. It's delicious and tasty. Last reason, I grow things because I can grow exactly what I want, which might not be what's available at the grocery store or farmers market. For example: drying peppers for grinding. I have no idea where I would find these unless I grow them myself. It's great!
1 year ago
When I keep seeds from one variety, say a bean variety over multiple years, should I just keep some seed from every year I grow it, or should I plant older seed in while maintaining some more recent seed?

I'm several years into seed saving now and my seed collection is growing extremely quickly. Between seed saving my 2018 crops and buying new varieties this year, I've got something like 130 new sets of seed. I've also got everything that I grew in the previous two years, although that is much less. Right now, I have limited storage space and my collection, which is labeled well in various bags and containers, is not organized well. Sometimes I pull out a container of bean seed and check the label and it's the 2016 or 2017 seed instead of the 2018 seed.

My question is really, should I keep that 2016 and 2017 seed tucked away somewhere, as a just in case? I have 2018 seed, which I won't be planting all of anyway in order to keep a reserve of good seed in case of crop failure. Do you rotate your seed to make sure nothing is getting too old? Should I just throw the 2016 and 2017 seed in with the partial 2018 because I can?

I don't particularly want to freeze more current seed because I'm traveling between my home location and growing location and I already leave many other things in each location that I need at the other, and I know I would forget to pull it out when needed. But should I stick the 2016 and 2017 seed in the freezer? Just in case? What do you all do?

This is for plants that I'm keeping as a variety, generally beans and peas and tomatoes because they're all easy to relatively isolate.

I've got some breeding projects planned that I will be keeping old seed for, which I would love organization advice for that as well.
1 year ago
Well, as it turns out, I threw the seeds in the ground to see what happened.

I have live plants! I planted all of the peas on October 15. I planted Tall Telephone (pole) and Maestro (bush). We had an early hard cold in October and when I checked on them October 30th, they were just germinating but I expected them all to die.

We had a cold of 6 degrees with snow cover over thanksgiving

I checked them December 31st and Maestro is alive! The Tall Telephone are completely gone but here's a picture of Maestro. We'll see if they survive current weather, which is teens with windchill down to 0 or negative without snow cover.

2 years ago

I'll be attending this seed swap. I am especially looking for collaborators in areas where blights vigorously attack tomatoes.

I'm attending that conference and seed swap! My work is paying for me to attend the whole conference as professional development as long as I help my boss with her talk on Saturday.

I'm excited as this will be my first in person seed swap!

I'd be willing to grow out some tomatoes, I grow in Northeastern PA at my parents farm. Every couple of years, a bad strain of late blight comes through and wipes out everyone's tomatoes so it's probably present in the better years. They might be neglected a bit as I get down there every other weekend or so to work on my field. I also haven't done a ton of selection breeding other than selecting the earliest/largest fruit/beans/crop/etc for seed saving.
2 years ago
If you've got larger things, often liquor stores will let you take the cardboard boxes that the bottles come in. They are very sturdy and generally pretty clean. I've also used them while moving for books!
2 years ago

My friend works with horses, I may be able to get some but then yes I’m not sure if I’ll be able to break it down... Is poultry much preferable? From what I read P seems to be higher (our P is pretty low).  

As far as manure goes, you do want to be careful with the higher nutrient manures and when you apply them. Some actually are too high for direct application to a soil with plants and will burn the plants. This is because of high nitrogen. Poultry manure is pretty bad about this unless it is pelleted, which you might have some luck finding in stores.

I wouldn't try and apply a ton of manure in the first year to get your levels up fast. There's some risk of plant burning and you may over apply. Some crops also don't need a ton, leafy greens, etc. If you apply too much and then grow tomatoes, the plants will grow enormous because of excess nitrogen but produce little fruit.

If you have a fallow/not growing season (it looks like fall for you), apply the manure of any sort then, mix it into the soil, and the soil microbes will get to work breaking the manure down and storing it in stable forms in the soil. This will prevent burning. If you do the horse manure, you can apply a greater amount ahead of time and it will breakdown in the soil just fine. You may need to add some moisture depending on your climate.

One thing I did with a small garden a few years ago is I dug the area where I was going to grow potatoes a month ahead of planting and buried the horse manure under the ground by six inches under my potato planting trench (I was double digging). By the time the potatoes got big enough to reach down there, the manure had broken down very well and provided nutrition to the plants. I had lovely potatoes that year.

So overall with manure, apply and mix in ahead of time. Pig, and poultry manure tend to be "hot" in nutrients and need more time to stabilize before plants go in on it. Horse, dairy, cattle manures and pelleted poultry are less hot, need less time/no time before planting into them but provide less nutrients.
2 years ago
Manure is your best source of phosphorus and potassium if you're looking to get sustainable nutrients. It might not be possible for you to spread it but if that is the case, a well done compost will also work. There might be some farms around that do their own composting although I know little of the area you live in. If there are any smaller horse farms around, they usually either compost or offer their manure for free because it's too much work for them to spread it. The horse manure will take longer to have an effect because it is lower in those nutrients than a ruminant or poultry manure.

In general insects are more likely to attack weaker plants, those that aren't getting enough phosphorus and potassium will be weaker.
2 years ago