What to grow for the coming year is on my mind now. Odd as it may seem in the depths of winter, with ice on the ground outside, there are only a few days to go before the first seeds go in. I sow organic tomatoes, peppers and aubergines indoors just after New Year and nurse them on my (very large) windowsill. Some of the organic seeds I buy, some I have already saved.
When I first started growing I looked through the seed catalogues and bought what I thought sounded nice or interesting. Then later in the year after sowing them they often went neglected or unharvested. Why? Because I chose crops I didn’t like to eat! I mean, swiss chard looks great but no one in this family eats it. Same with beetroot. And I hate radishes. So nowadays I only grow what I know we will eat. Lots of what we love; peas, broccoli, potatoes, squash, and a little of what we sometimes fancy, like parsley and parsnips.
If a crop has done particularly well I try and harvest the seed from it to use again the following season. Seed orders these days mostly consist of the F1 hybrid-type specially bred tomato and pepper plant seeds, that I can’t easily save myself. I find saving seed is really easy for most plants. Pick a vegetable plant that has done particularly well, don’t harvest it (eat the ugly ones instead!) and let it, well… go to seed. Usually the seeds dry on the plant (all the brassicas, peas, beans, parsnips etc.). Some need processing a little, like tomatoes (squeeze them out of the fruit and wash them down and pat dry). Seeds need to be really dry before you store them otherwise they will go mouldy. I let them sit on a mesh tray for a few weeks before putting them in airtight jam jars.
Saving your own seed saves money! The plants that result from the saved seed are usually the same as the mother plant and will go on to grow and produce their own seed, which can be saved again and again, season after season. Of course for the serious plant breeder (not me!), there are other things to consider like cross-breeding, variety selection, pollination timings, hybridization, etc.. I stick to saving open pollinated varieties and as long as the food it produces tastes and yields well, I’m happy to save it. Of course if I forget or they don’t germinate, there are plenty of seed catalogues coming through the letterbox this time of year!
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