So Autumn is definitely here – with cooler temperatures, some rain (finally), and shorter days.
From a gardener’s point of view, autumn is the most rewarding month – it’s when we get to enjoy our harvest, a great reward for the months of hard work. I hope that our “Keep Growing” campaign has helped to foster a new passion for gardening, learning new skills and given you some delicious produce to enjoy..
Your home grown vegetables are an amazing resource and not just in terms of being able to enjoy fresh, organic food. It’s a starting point to really engage in other areas of gardening and food production, such as saving your own seeds.
WHAT DOES “SAVING SEEDS” MEAN?
Strictly speaking, saving seeds means saving money as you’ll be able to get a lot of seeds from the plants you already grow and possibly not have to buy packs of seeds or even plants every year in order to grow your own food.
That’s not to say that you won’t want to buy seeds in the future – I think that one of the exciting things about gardening is to try something you have never grown before and to learn new skills to grow better and more food.
I think that one of the exciting things about gardening is to try something you have never grown before and to learn new skills to grow better and more food.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
The time and energy spent on producing our own local organic produce also gives a good perspective of the real value of every single seed we extract and save.
Gardening takes energy and it can have some economical cost too, especially when we use ethically sourced and environmental-friendly supplies such as local seeds and heirloom varieties. That’s why we should see our vegetables and plants as a resource and investment to use thoroughly now and in the future.
THE SELF-SUFFICIENCY LOOP
Growing a plant from seed means we are actually starting a self-sufficiency loop where we are owning and understanding the value of what we are producing. We know the plant we are growing and we are able to grow it again and again.
Every seed has genetic information that might be inherited by the plant generated from it, this is called “Genetic memory” and by saving your own seed, you might increase the ability of a plant to remember and cope with the climate and soil condition of your growing space year after year.
Besides that, saving on the seeds from the plant you already own, can help you to invest in more specific varieties, such as local or heirloom vegetables that are not commercialized on a large international scale. These are open-pollinated varieties that have been saved for years by small independent producers: they often perform better and result in a more nutritious crop than newer varieties, bringing a new range of taste amongst your homegrown products.
A GROWER’S NETWORK
Since the number of seeds we collect from a single plant or fruit is usually a lot more than the quantity a family would need, you can also consider sharing or exchanging your seeds with other people in your community thus engaging in a proper Grower Network.
Knowing how a plant can reproduce itself and learning how and when a plant is bearing seeds is something really fascinating and of fundamental importance.
I personally love to collect seeds from ornamental plants or wildflowers. There is a huge variety of seeds you can find in public places and parks at the end of summer.
Here is a video with some basic tips to collect and save your seeds.
I’m always very tempted to snip off some seed pods or dried flower heads to bring home – I then collect the seeds from them and enlarge my collection. When I go “seed hunting” I find that the best way to collect seeds, without losing them in some remote pocket of my jacket or bag, is to bring along some small paper envelope and a pencil to label each one with the name of the plant I’m collecting seeds from. It can be a fun activity to make your own seed envelope recycling wrapping paper or using a paper sheet decorated with your own design and pattern. Here’s an easy to use template to create your own seed envelope.
These are my tips and suggestions for saving seeds, I really hope I’ve persuaded you to start collecting seeds from your own plants and exchange those with your community to keep sowing and keep growing!
CLYO PARECCHINI, LIVEWELL COORDINATOR
Clyo heads up Wen’s Live Well cooking and food growing courses in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Classes explore in a practical way how diet and lifestyles has an impact on the planet. Attendees learn and try new plant based recipes, spend time in the community garden and enjoy a delicious lunch.