Winter crops and seed saving
Like it or not, but the “summer” (if there was one) definitely came to an end and now is the time to prepare for the winter and get these lasts seeds in if you got a space to grow or keep plants and seedlings over the winter. Also an opportunity to think ahead and save some seeds if you haven’t done it so far.
Most seeds should have been sown by the end of September as the actual growing season is more or less finished by mid October (always keep local climate conditions in mind and I am talking about climate in the south east of the UK) This is due to the lower temperatures as well as light conditions. So fast maturing crops (like lettuce leaves ) and vegetables which do better in cooler conditions (broad beans, peas, beet root, spinach, kohlrabi , sprouting broccoli , sweet heart cabbage, cauliflower, radishes spring onions and coriander could be kept through the winter month. You should be able to harvest a few hardy lettuce leaves (if sown in time) like lambs lettuce, Mizuma, rocket, endive salads land cress and others Crops like peas and broad beans and the others mentioned above won’t grow a lot during the winter (unless kept in a heated and lit environment) but will give you a head start in spring. As soon as the days get noticeable longer and the temperatures are rising they will grow and give you an early harvest. So you might as well use the space in your green house or poly tunnel to make use of it.
Garlic can be planted outside now and I always have lots of big garlic heads (use local garlic if possible, because it will grow a lot better under the same climate conditions. Which brings us to saving your own seeds, Your own seeds are already adapted to the growing conditions they “grew up “ with and will therefor do better than seeds grown in a different environment or soil conditions.There are a few things to keep in mind , when saving your own seeds (which probably has been discussed already. So in short
Just use your best plant for saving seeds (rather than the one which bolted first) as this qualities will be carried forward into the seed.Make sure the seeds are fully ripe and dry before harvesting.Find out if the crop or plant which you are planning to use for seeds is suitable.Don’t save seeds from Hybrids (you won’t get anything like the parent plant!)Be aware that certain crops cross pollinate easily (broad beans, sweet corn…..) As a lunar gardener you would save/harvest all seeds on a dry day preferable a fruit day Also seeds from leaf vegetables and would choose the ascending moon phase.We sell a wide range of open pollinated biodynamic Demeter seeds which are all good for harvesting seeds from.I recommend you start off with some easy plants and persuade some fellow gardeners to do the same so you can swap seeds.
WHY? So many varieties of heritage seeds have been lost over the last years, and to keep diversity it is essential that gardeners save their own seeds.Hybrids are just useful for commercial growers as the crops all mature at the same time – not what you want as a gardener.The more worrying fact is that nowadays the majority of the seed market is owned and controlled by just a few giants (like Monsanto , Bayer ) and that is a bad thing for lots of reasons. Most seeds (if not organic or biodynamic) have undergone treatment one way or another, a lot of them are covered in pesticides, herbicides, insecticides….which can be deadly for pollinators and also not good for us in my opinium) some seeds have been crossed with unsuitable partners ….These methods are just possible under heavy intervention in a laboratory .Sometimes certain genes are taken out or added and quite un natural and not far off Genetic modified seeds. So please encourage fellow gardeners to avoid these seeds !Here is a short list of plants for beginners and what to look out for
Peas – easy to harvest seeds, wait until seedpods turn yellow/grey and seeds are dry
French beans – easy just make sure the seeds are ripe, keep on plant as long as possible
Broad beans – easy to harvest but cross pollination likely if grown on allotment
Runner beans –easy to harvest but again, cross pollination with others likely if grown on allotments. Again make sure seeds are ripe and start plants early
Tomatoes- fairly easy. Harvest when fruit is ripe, but needs cleaning
Courgettes – leave the fruit (courgette) until over sized and harvest as late as possible. Cross pollination likely.
As you can see, lots of crops tend to cross pollinate if you don’t prevent it (more likely on an allotment, where different types are growing.You need to isolate your plant – if you want seeds to be true to type of parent plant- where other varieties are growing
Easy to hand pollinate are courgette and squash flowers. Use the stamen of the male flower (which carries the pollen) just before it opens and rub on the stigma of the female flower (just when it opens and BEFORE any pollinators had a change to visit) It can be on the same plant but better on a different plant of the same variety. Now you have to put a clear bag (I use the ones of baguettes with holes in it) and cover the flower –making sure no insects can visit the flower. JOB DONEThere are books on the market and probably a lot of information out there much more in detail how to save seeds. Lots of communities and transition towns organize seed swaps (seedy Sunday in Brighton , Seedy Saturday in Lewes…..)Get involved and encourage others