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Posts Tagged ‘seed saving

01
Oct
11

Seedy Sunday, seed stores and seed sorting

In the interests of transparency, and because it’s been asked, it’s about time I explained some of the behind-the-scenes workings of Seedy Sunday. People want to know more about what happens with the seeds, where they come from and how they get looked after.

There’s an entire ecosystem of seeds that keep Seedy Sunday running. And explaining it all may show you the depth of my madness. But because this is a community event I think it’s good to have a bit of clarity around what happens.

  • Anna’s seed collection

I have this thing for seeds. I grow them, I collect them, I process and store them. Some I swap, some are given to me and some are bought. This little seed fetish is how Seedy Sunday started; not just to feed my maniacal collecting frenzy, but because the value of seeds and sharing and community building became more and more apparent.

  • Seedy Sunday’s pot of gold

To prepare for a Seedy Sunday I donate a pot of seeds for each event; usually about 50 packets. This ensures that everyone who comes gets something and adds some variety to the table. Other people bring seeds and whatever is left after an event is safely stored away in an air-tight tin can until the next one.

  • A growing opportunity

Some of that seed may be grown out by myself or given to experienced gardeners to keep the seedline going. This builds up stores of seed to be giving out at Seedy Sunday or to go into a community chest. That’s a project I’m calling the Kapiti Seed Store.

  • Funding the growth

LovePlantLife seeds are a separate thing entirely, but still an important part of this ecosystem. Most are bought in but some lines are grown by me under careful conditions and checked for strong viability. These act as the fundraising arm for these activities. I’d like to keep Seedy Sunday and the Seed Store as self-funding projects and not apply for already overstretched Kapiti community grants.

LovePlantLife lets this happen by paying the bills – marketing, hall hire, printing, consumables etc. The donation at events usually covers afternoon tea and a bottle of wine for the speakers. None of the seeds I’ve received through Seedy Sunday have gone on to be sold.

So what do I get out of all this?

I get to put together something pretty special. Seedy Sundays have been really popular, educational and social. Some great things have come out of it, some great friends even. I’m doing work I feel is really important. And I actually really enjoy harvesting, processing and packaging seed. I guess it’s what you would call enjoying the little things in life :)

~ Anna

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19
Sep
10

Let us speak now of lettuce…

Lettuce is by far the world’s favourite salad green. The Egyptians were growing it way back in 4500 BC and it’s been the darling of the salad and the sandwich ever since. There is an incredible array of lettuce available for the discerning gardener – colour, style, leaf-form and grace. Only a disappointing sample can be found on supermarket shelves, selected primarily because they keep better. But the delights of fresh-picked leaves straight from the garden can’t be beaten.

I’m an avid fan of the rosette forms of the loose leaf lettuce. Loose leaf is ready to pick in just a couple of weeks and is heat tolerant. Sow more every two weeks for a constant salad supply. I don’t mulch around my lettuce as slugs just love the taste of little leaves and like to hide in mulch.

Keep your favourite lettuce going from year to year by saving the seed

If you are new to seed-saving, lettuce is an easy place to start. There is very little crossing in lettuce, so your plants next year will almost certainly be just like your favourite lettuce this year.

Start by choosing the healthiest lettuce plants in your garden – you’re looking for strong, healthy growth. Make sure they taste great by picking a few of the outside leaves, you wouldn’t want to save something that tasted yuck. Once you’ve made your selection, put a stake next to it labelled ‘save for seed’. Many of my best seed-saving intentions have blown away when a hungry husband has eyed a particularly good looking plant.

Hopefully, your lettuce will escape predation and make it through to late summer, when it will flower. If your lettuce has bolted too early it’s not the best one to save seed from as this is not a trait you want to select for.

Seeds will be ready for collecting 12–24 days after flowering. Each day grab a clean bucket and shake the lettuce tops into it. Be careful not to damage the stem. Put the contents into a paper bag and leave to dry somewhere cool and airy. Label the bag with the type of lettuce, a description, when it was grown and where the seed came from. While this may not be so important if you keep the seed to grow each year – it may matter to people you wish to swap seed with. With a single lettuce able to produce 30,000 seeds, you’ll have plenty to swap.

Don’t plant try to plant your lettuce seed straight away – store for at least 6 months. The seed has a coating on it that will stop your fresh seed from germinating..

You’ll want to remove a lot of the fluff and chaff that was collected with it. When the seed is completely dry, rub it over a fine mesh. Gently blow on the seed and most of the detritus will blow away leaving small oblong seeds. Don’t blow too hard or you may lose it all! Now store it away safely and package some up to bring along to Seedy Sunday.

Lettuce varieties currently available as seed to New Zealand gardeners

 

Koanga

Devil’s ear, Finger, Four seasons (Quatre de saisons), Heritage lettuce mix, Joes, Lightheart (Ruawai), Mignonette, Odell’s, Tree lettuce, Webb’s wonderful, Winter.

Ecoseeds

Buttercrunch, Great lakes, Green oak leaf, Red oak leaf, Triumph, Webb’s wonderful.

Kings Seeds

Buttercrunch, Tom Thumb, Freckles, Little gem, Rouge d’hiver, Vivian, Great lakes, Grenoble, Apache, Cocarde, Canasta, Drunken woman fringed head, Lolita, Lollo blonda, Dark lollo rossa, Royal oak leaf, Salad trim, Perella rougette montpellier, Tango.

Franchi

Degli ortolani, Lingua di canario, Misticanza, Rossa di trento, Testa di burro D’Inverno, Misticanza quattro stagioni, La Resistente sel. “Franchi”, Burro d’Inverno, Parella rossa.

Egmont Seeds

Bug off, Cisco, Cos red majestic, Dover, Gourmet salad blend, Great lakes, Kaiser, Legacy, Onyx green frill, Red butterhead, Red fire, Solsun red frill, Tin tin cos, Tom Thumb, Veredes green oakleaf, Vesuvius, Xanthia red oakleaf.

Yates

Buttercrunch, Cos, Great lakes, Greenway, Webb’s wonderful, Winter triumph.

McGregor

Buttercrunch, Great lakes, Mixed gourmet blend, Lollo rosso, Mesclun mix

This article appeared in the September edition of Kapiti’s  On To It.

03
Nov
09

Growing magic beans

heirloom bean varieties New ZealandTo me, seeds are mini miracles. When I hold them in my hand I get terribly excited by all that potential inside them. And eating something that grew from a little seed I planted and nurtured is simply incredible.

Some seeds themselves taste delicious and some just look beautiful – some are both. I have twenty varieties of different beans at home and no two look the same – spotted, speckled, stripey and squiggly in a range of colours, shapes and sizes.

If you’ve never dabbled in the wonders of seeds, beans are a great place to start. They’re keen beans, they grow fast. Satisfyingly so. They’re easy – soak them overnight in some warm water, then direct sow them into your garden keeping them moist. In seven days you should see them coming up. Be vigilant for slugs though!

Magic beans

Our modern beans are derived from plants that once grew wild in Central and South America. But we’ve been cultivating beans for ages and archaeologists have found traces of domesticated types that date back more than 7000 years. Heirloom gardeners have hundreds of varieties of bean to choose from. So I’m just going to focus on a few of my favourite shelled beans, all available in New Zealand, some of which have been available through Seedy Sunday. Continue reading ‘Growing magic beans’




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