There are so many reasons to save seeds. You can save them to make sure you have the selection you want or to preserve a family heirloom. You might be inspired to save seeds as a budget measure, saving seeds and saving money at the same time. Working with a variety to select characteristics you desire in your garden is an interesting way to expand your gardening skills. A big motivator to save seeds for many people is to keep the food supply in the hands of the people and not the chemical companies. You can find out more about all these reasons at Homeplace Earth.
The reason I want to talk about here is one I don’t see mentioned so often, but is a really important one. That reason is to attract beneficial insects. The guideline I always mention for garden management is “feed the soil and build the ecosystem.” Seed saving is part of that, bringing the system full circle. On the way to producing seeds, the plants produce flowers which attract beneficial insects. I know that many plants produce flowers, then produce the fruit or vegetable you will harvest. Sometimes you have to leave those things on the plant longer to let the seeds mature. But many others aren’t permitted to express themselves fully to seed when you harvest the root or leaves.
Early on in gardening, I learned that a good gardener harvested things, such as basil, before it flowered for the best culinary flavor. It was only later that I learned of all the beneficial insects I could attract to my garden if I let the basil flower. Leave it just a little longer, and those flowers will turn to seeds. Now I harvest some of my basil regularly as leaves, and leave some to flower. Try it for yourself this year and watch what happens. You may have noticed this already with broccoli. If your broccoli plants produced flowers before you had a chance to harvest it, step back and watch the show. The best time to observe the insects is from 10am to 2pm on a sunny day.
Some crops, such as carrots, beets, parsley, celery, and cabbage need to overwinter in the garden; producing their seeds the following year. You would need to plan ahead for that now, so you would have the space designated for that next spring. The best thing, is that when these things perk back up early next year, they will produce seeds that attract beneficials and you won’t have had to do anything but let them grow. I like to grow celery to use the leaves in cooking all summer. I also dry some of it in my solar dryers. I make sure the plant has enough foliage to go into the fall. It will die back, but when it pops back up in the spring, besides attracting the good bugs, it produces celery seed that I can save for cooking with, in addition to save for planting. I have carefully relocated the celery plants in the spring, if they are not where I need them to be, and they grew fine.
When you save your own seed, you know you will have it when you want it. I always encourage people to plan their gardens carefully in the winter and order all the seed they need then, so there are no delays when it is time to plant. We are lulled into a false sense of security when we can pick up the phone and place an order, or order online, and within a week, the seeds show up in our mailbox. However, things can happen. When I was a market grower, I was looking to expand my fall offerings to the restaurants I sold to and decided bok choy would be good, although I had never grown it before. I checked the calendar and I had just enough time to get a crop for fall sales if I planted it in the next week. For some reason, the seed companies I dealt with on the East coast were out of bok choy, which was surprising. So, I ordered the seed from Territorial in Oregon. Remember, I live in Virginia. Territorial Seeds had always been prompt, so things would work out, or so I thought. That was the year that the UPS workers went on strike. My seeds were sent out, then sat in a UPS warehouse between here and there. They arrived three weeks later, too late for my plans. That’s why I stress making your plans ahead and securing your seed.
Saving seeds adds a new level of awareness, skill, and empowerment to your gardening activities. I hope you join in the fun.
Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.wordpress.com.