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Seed saving shame

June 10, 2010

I saved some seeds this week; the shame is how simple it was and how I haven’t been doing it under the assumption it was always complicated. In fact, the process favors people like me, who are so excited about the next stage of the garden that they forget about the patch that had peaked and faded.   We really do intend to clean up after ourselves but step over the hideous yellowing plants  bolting and flopping out of their assigned spot.   We want to, we just never seem to do it in a timely fashion.

The good news is if you are really slack, like in the order of several weeks slack, you might find a pleasant  surprise when you eventually get to it. A few leggy Bloomsdale spinach plants wintered over in one of the beds and weren’t really in the way.  Over the last few weeks, they bolted to almost 3 feet tall then fell over on themselves and slowly expired.   A couple days ago I finally decided to pull them and tidy up a bit, and was surprised at the number of fully developed seeds that were at every leaf and shoot off of the crunchy stalks.

I slipped a couple of sections of newspaper under the old stalks and cut them; I could hear seeds rattling off onto the paper. This is what the mess looked like

Closer you can see the seed clusters in better detail:

I spent a about 15 minutes stripping the seeds off of all the stalks and when all was said and done, I was left with about a cup and a half  of seeds by volume.   This is probably about 20 x the seed that I have planted since spring of last year, so I suppose I can claim I’ve saved enough money to justify a new garden hand tool of some sort.

This seems so easy- neglect, procrastinate, ignore, harvest

But is this seed viable, did I luck out and do it right?

According to the International Seed Saving Institute I may have.

They list spinach as one for “experienced” seed savers and offer a basic template for success.

Neither of the other two varieties made it to the seed stage this spring, so the recommended 5 mile isolation wasn’t violated.  (Well, not in my plot anyway, but perhaps someone in my little city had another variety going to seed at the same time).

I know I had male flowering plants as well because I noticed that a couple of the floppy plants I pulled had wilted buds but no seeds.

My slackness lasted the requisite 4-6 weeks after the “normal” harvest time around here.

Whether or not you are interested in saving seed, you should take a look at some of the heirlooms available through Seed Savers Exchange. Spend a few minutes browsing the tomatoes, peppers and lettuce pages in their seed offerings; you won’t be disappointed.  The active forum appears to have a lot of knowledgeable members (unlike what you find behind cohutt’s fence.)  😉

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