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The seed garden 90 mins pam dawling 2020

Combining growing some seed crops with growing lots of vegetables. Choosing suitable seed crops, calculating population size and isolation distances, selecting mother plants, harvesting, processing wet-seeded crops and dry-seeded crops. Using the hoophouse to grow seed crops. Seed storage and germination testing. Growing seeds for sale.

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The seed garden 90 mins pam dawling 2020

  1. 1. The Seed Garden Planning for Seed Saving and Lots of Vegetables ©Pam Dawling 2020 Author of Sustainable Market Farming and The Year-Round Hoophouse
  2. 2. I live and farm at Twin Oaks Community, in central Virginia. We are located on Monacan land. We’re in zone 7, with an average last frost April 30 and average f first frost October 14. Our goal is to feed our intentional community of 100 people with a wide variety of organic produce year round.
  3. 3. 1. Why grow seed crops? 2. Which seed crops combine best with food production? 3. Population size 4. Isolation distances 5. Selecting “mother plants” 6. Wet seeds and dry seeds 7. Seed crops in the Twin Oaks vegetable garden 8. Summer hoophouse use for seed growing 9. Seed storage and germination testing 10.Resources What’s in this presentation
  4. 4. 1. Why grow seed crops?  Diversify your sources of income. Often seed-growing has a higher dollar per hour than growing food  Earn some money during the winter, when seed companies pay (and produce sales are down).  Keep good Open Pollinated seed varieties alive and available. Support small seed companies.  Seed crops have a longer, slower season and a less pressured pace most of the year.  For some crops, you can grow seed and food at the same time, from the same crops.  Improve a variety to best suit your climate, your customers, be more tolerant to a disease or a pest.
  5. 5. Selling your seeds • It’s possible to sell your seeds directly by joining Local Harvest and selling on their website, where there are over a thousand entries on seed for sale. You can create a free listing with if “You are a direct marketing family farm that does not grow GMOs, a producers’ farmers’ market, a business that sells products made from things grown locally by family farms, or an organization dedicated to promoting small farms and the ‘buy local’ movement.” Even eBay now has heirloom seeds! • USDA Certified Organic seed is much in demand, but uncertified sustainably/ecologically grown seed also has a market, especially for heirloom or heritage varieties.
  6. 6. Expanding seed sales • Most seed growers continue to grow a mix of crops — a seed crop, like any other crop, could fail. • But if seed growing really suits you, you could move more towards growing seeds and away from other crops. • When you are ready to grow a commercial seed crop, contact seed companies before the start of the season to agree on a contract. • Some seed crops (okra, winter squash) can sit around for a while drying, with no particular hurry. • Others will need more immediate attention.
  7. 7. 2. Which seed crops combine best with food production? Start small • Read up about seed-growing and isolation distances required. • In your first year, avoid unfamiliar crops or too many different seed crops. Grow one or two seed crops for yourself. • Keep records of your dates and quantities – the timing might be critical and some crops will work better than others. • Biennials (onions, carrots, most root crops) are a bit more complicated – they need a 2nd growing season to get seed. • Hybrids are not the place to start either. Seeds saved from hybrids produce very mixed progeny, some of it useless! While experienced seed growers can develop stable strains from a hybrid, this requires years of work.
  8. 8. Double benefits Have your crop and eat it too: – tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, winter squash. • Crops where you eat the ripe fruit can provide mature seeds too. • You may be able to eat the earliest fruit and save seed later (cucumbers), or save seed first and eat the later fruit. Don’t save seed from plants past their prime, and don’t risk your seed crop by reducing much the time it has to mature. • Greens grown for seed can also provide a small leaf harvest without detracting from seed production. • You can eat the produce from the edges of a block planting and save seed from plants in the center — this helps preserve the purity of the seed without “wasting” the edge plants.
  9. 9. Food for thought • Getting two crops from one plant can take more time compared to simply mashing whole tomatoes. • Not all fruit crops can provide both food and seeds at the same time. Cucumbers are eaten as under-ripe fruits, and the seed is mature when the cucumber reaches the yellow blimp stage. • Photo Twin Oaks Seed Farm
  10. 10. What type of crop to grow? Recommended for Beginners:  Open-pollinated varieties.  Crops you can easily grow to maturity in your climate.  Crops you only grow one variety of, or can easily grow far apart.  Crops your neighbors don’t have growing nearby  Vegetatively produced clones, eg seed garlic, yellow potato onions, shallots, sweet potato slips. Ideas to Consider:  Flowers that attract beneficial insects  Crops with harvests either at the end of the main season, or weekly for the month of August (plan to pace yourself)  Crops that grow without much attention in underused spaces, eg high summer in the hoophouse.  Varieties where you want to increase the seed availability
  11. 11. Biennial plants • Biennials (such as onions, carrots, most other root crops) need a second growing season to make seed. • Some crops may be left over-winter in the field, others are replanted in spring. • In the second year the flower heads and seeds will form. • Leaving the roots in the ground over the winter is easier, but if your climate gets very cold, or fluctuates a lot (ours does), or if you have lots of voles (we do), then digging the roots and storing in a cool, damp root cellar is wiser. It also gives you the chance to select well-shaped roots as your seed stock. Photo Small Farm Central
  12. 12. 3. Population size • Never save seed from just one plant (unless it’s the second to last on the planet). Grow a big enough population of plants to keep enough genetic diversity for future adaptability and to prevent a genetic “bottleneck.” • With self-pollinators (inbreeders) such as beans, 20 plants may be enough - self-pollinated varieties are already genetically quite homogenous, and there is little gain from a bigger population. • For out-breeders (cross-pollinators) grow at least 100 to avoid inbreeding depression, which leads, over time, to lower quality, less vigorous plants.
  13. 13. How long will it take? There is, as yet, no published table of time from sowing to seed crop maturity. Lettuce can take up to 2 months beyond the eating stage to get to the mature seed stage (See Fedco’s charming Activity Guidebook in the Living Tradition of Seed Saving, Eli Kaufman ernation.pdf)Flowering lettuce Photo School Garden Weekly
  14. 14. • The isolation distance required for a particular species depends on whether the plants are self- or cross-pollinated. • Self-pollinators use their own pollen to set seed, without any transfer of pollen from other plants. Because avoiding unwanted cross- pollination is not an issue, isolation distances are smaller. • For example, tomatoes mostly self-pollinate, and only require an isolation distance of 75 to 180 feet (23–55 m). • Cross-pollinating (outcrossing) plants may be wind- or insect- pollinated. Isolation distances (from other crops which could pollinate your crop) are large. • For example, bees fly a long way, so cucurbits (crossers) have long isolation distances of 1,500 feet (460 m), or even as much as half a mile (800 m) if you have no physical barriers. Wind-pollinated crossers usually have the most genetic diversity and pollen that travels furthest, so they need the longest isolation distances. 4. Isolation distances
  15. 15. Ways to improve isolation • Barriers such as buildings, hoophouses, and tall crops - corn or sunflowers, can help a borderline isolation be more certain, especially for insect-pollinated crossers. • Collect seed only from the middle of a planting block, rather than at the edges. • If you are determined to get seed of a particular crop, use advanced tricks - bag, cage, hand pollinate. • Observing isolation distances can restrict what you can grow for food, but if your growing season is long enough you may be able to have a zucchini crop for early market, then sow pumpkins for seed, and ruthlessly pull up the zucchini before the pumpkins flower. • This is known as isolating by time. • If your season is long enough and the crop maturity quick, you could grow two seed crops. Photo Bridget Aleshire
  16. 16. Negotiating isolation distances with neighbors • Once you know the required isolation distance for your crop, make sure your planting map gives you this space. • Early each year we write a “Seed Saving Letter” to others who grow plants nearby, to tell them where we plan to grow our seed crops, and asking them not to plant anything that could cross-pollinate within the isolation distance. • In return, we offer seeds or transplants, and we also ask them if they have any seed saving plans we need to know about. • Some cross-pollination can still occur with selfers.
  17. 17. 5. Selecting “mother plants” • Grow enough to allow for rogueing – remove off-types as well as existing fruits from the immediate neighbor plants. • Also rogue out diseased plants and any early- bolting plants of crops you don’t want to bolt. • If you are selling seed, you have a responsibility to maintain that variety and all the genetic diversity it contains. You will need more plants than if you are just keeping seed to resupply yourself. • If you are improving a variety, selecting for certain desirable traits, be particularly selective about mother plants. • Photo Wren Vile
  18. 18. Tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, eggplant Wet seeds are embedded in the fruit. Wet processing has 4 steps: 1. scooping out the seed or mashing the fruit, 2. fermenting the seed pulp for a few days, 3. washing the seed and removing the pulp 4. drying the washed seed. Wet-processed seed is naturally cleaned during the fermentation and washing. 6. Wet seeds Garden Peach Tomato. Photo Irene Hollowell
  19. 19. Dry seeds Legumes, okra, corn, radish, lettuce, spinach, beets, flowers Dry seeds are found in pods, husks or ears, and dry down on the plant. Dry seed processing involves 1. harvesting the pods or the entire plants, 2. completing the drying indoors if needed, 3. cracking or breaking the pods to release the seeds. 4. Screening and winnowing Edamame. Photo Raddysh Acorn
  20. 20. Dry seed cleaning • While small quantities of seed can be cleaned with basic kitchen equipment, if you move into larger quantities, you will want to buy some of the specialized equipment available, or make your own. • After drying, dry seeds and chaff are sieved through 2 different gauge mesh screens: the larger one keeps back the big chaff and lets the seed pass through; the smaller one keeps back the seed while letting the small chaff pass through. After screening, the seed is winnowed, using a box fan and a sheet of cloth or a plastic tub to catch the seed. Dryingseedinahoophouse. PhotoPamDawling Next two slides of dry seed cleaning: Courtesy of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  21. 21. A woman uses the wind to winnow rice on the roadside in Viet Nam. We like the convenience of an electric fan.
  22. 22. 7. Seed crops in the Twin Oaks vegetable garden • We have grown, selected and saved seed from paste tomatoes, watermelon, edamame, southern peas, gherkins, okra and some flowers grown to attract beneficial insects (cosmos seed is very easy to collect). • From time to time we have saved seed from other crops, if a need or an opportunity presents itself, eg leaf beet • West Indian gherkins. Photo Nina Gentle
  23. 23. Roma paste tomatoes • Roma is an OP paste tomato variety that was reliable and productive, but our yields were reduced by Septoria leaf spot. • There didn’t seem to be any commercially available Septoria-resistant variety when we looked, so I decided to develop our own resistant strain. • The reward for developing a strain of Roma that is resistant to Septoria is of great value to us – healthy plants for a long season. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  24. 24. Planting our Roma tomatoes Roma tomatoes with Florida stringweaving. Photo Bridget Aleshire • Tomatoes are self-pollinating, so planting 200, pulling out any off-types, and making a selection of 80–100 of those plants would be enough genetic diversity. • We don’t put any tomato plants of any other varieties within 180 feet (55 m) of any of our Romas. • We put out our 530 transplants as usual, two feet (60 cm) apart in late April or early May. We use the Florida string- weave system, with a metal T-post after every two plants and a new round of twine each week.
  25. 25. Selecting and marking for variety improvement• Monitor the plants, marking ones with healthy foliage and ones yielding very well. • Use flagging tape: green or yellow to show healthy foliage with OK yield; red for abundant fruit with OK foliage (some plants get 2 ribbons!). • Tie tape on the T-post next to the chosen plant, with a bow or knot on the side of the post facing the plant. • Do this once a week, on the day before the crew comes through to do a harvest (no good looking for high yields when they’ve already been picked!) Flagged Roma plants. Photo by Kathryn Simmons
  26. 26. Biodegradable flagging tape 3.0 mil Nonwoven Cellulosic Roll Flagging $2.59 Presco Biodegradable Flagging Tape is made of material derived from wood pulp. Degrades in 6–24 months (depending on conditions). Completely nontoxic. PRESCO Biodegradable Flagging Tape
  27. 27. Harvesting our Roma tomatoes • After 1-2 weeks of monitoring and flagging, we start picking for seed, on those same just-before-bulk-harvest days. • Our method combines well with crew harvesting most of the fruit as food. • If you are growing the variety only or mainly as a seed crop, you would save all the seed from the chosen plants, or from the whole row after pulling out any unpromising plants (“rogueing”). Harvesting Roma tomatoes. Photo Twin Oaks Community
  28. 28. Harvesting for seed • We assess the flagged plants and take ripe tomatoes from each plant that has both flags, or has one flag and is not worse than average on the other factor. • If the plant no longer looks so great, we remove its ribbon. • If a plant without a ribbon starts to excel in healthy foliage as the season wears on, we add a ribbon. • We don’t add many red ribbons after the start of the harvest, because we want to keep selecting for early fruit, and plants that yield well later are not what we want.Photo by Raddysh Acorn
  29. 29. Ripening tomato seeds We pick about 5 gallons (19 L) for seed each week. We store those buckets of tomatoes in a secret location, where no one will eat them, for 5 days, which lets the fruit get completely ripe. Ten gallons of ripe tomatoes ready to process. Photo Pam Dawling
  30. 30. Processing tomato seeds I cover the fruit with water, remove and cut each tomato in half lengthways into a clean bucket. Tomatoes cut in half ready for seed scooping. Photo Pam Dawling
  31. 31. Scooping tomato seeds Using a soup spoon, I then scoop out the seeds into another bucket and put the empty “shells” into another clean bucket. We make sauce and salsa, including the “shells” Tomato “shells” for sauce- making. Photo Pam Dawling
  32. 32. Fermenting tomato seeds Photo showing larger scale harvests from whole tomatoes. Twin Oaks Seeds Farm The seeds ferment in the bucket in a shed for 2-3 days, nominally at 70°F (21°C), until bubbles stop. We stir 2 or 3 times a day.
  33. 33. Washing the tomato seed • When fermentation is over (no more bubbles), we take several clean buckets and a sieve and wash the seed clean. • This art gets easier and quicker with practice. • The good seed sinks to the bottom. Washing a seed ferment. Photo Twin Oaks Seeds Farm
  34. 34. Washing the tomato seed again Third wash. Photo Pam Dawling Seeds after second pour. Photo Pam Dawling • Pour off the top half of the ferment (mostly no good) into another bucket. • Add water to both buckets, stir, let things settle and then pour off the tomato pulp and no-good floating seeds from both. • Consolidate the better stuff in one bucket, the worse stuff in another, and pour away the water. Add more water and repeat several times.
  35. 35. Finishing washing the tomato seed Roma seeds strained in a sieve. Photo Pam Dawling Adding fifth (final) wash water. Photo Pam Dawling After about 5 rinses, the water is clear and the seed is clean. Strain it through a sieve
  36. 36. Tomato seed drying • Spread the seed to dry with a fan, on a window screen or paper towels. • After 6-12 hours, scrape the clumps of seed off the surface with a putty knife, turn them over and crumble the clumps by hand. After 2 days, once the seed is thoroughly dry, gather it into a paper bag and add some desiccant. • We hold back on storing in an airtight container until we’re absolutely sure the seed is dry. (More on storage later.) Drying tomato seed from 5 gals of tomatoes. Photo Pam Dawling
  37. 37. Seeds drying on screens. Photo Twin Oaks Seed Farm
  38. 38. Fitting tomato seed work into our schedule • Here’s how we fit it together in an efficient, easy-to-remember way: – we harvest seed on Monday – scoop on Friday, which is the day the Food Processing crew are making sauce. – we start the fermentation on Friday, wash on Monday, set those seeds to dry and harvest the next batch. • We usually do 4 or 5 batches of seed, during August. It’s not good to save seed from plants in decline, so get started as soon as you can, and quit while the going is good. We sell this seed to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. • 20 gallons (76 L) of Roma tomatoes makes 130 gm of seed.
  39. 39. Crimson Sweet watermelons • We started growing Crimson Sweet watermelon seed to get larger, earlier, disease-resistant melons. • I’m also hoping that by never bringing other watermelons into our gardens we can avoid seed-borne Watermelon Fruit Blotch Disease. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange • We had a long way to go, improving early ripening of our watermelons, because we had been using hay mulch for weed control, which cools the soil, delaying ripening! • We now use the biodegradable black plastic mulch (Bio Telo Mater-Bi — we’re not USDA certified, so the fact that it is not yet OMRI listed doesn’t matter). This change alone gives us melons almost 4 weeks earlier than using hay, and we could reduce our planting from 430 to 300 plants.
  40. 40. Watermelon on bioplastic Watermelon growing on biodegradable plastic mulch. Photo Nina Gentle
  41. 41. Selecting and marking watermelons • By transplanting, we have already started selecting healthy plants • In July, as the melons ripen, I walk through the plot with a grease pencil (china marker) and number 30-40 selected melons. • I look for big melons with vigorous healthy vines. Cucurbits, although cross-pollinators, show relatively little inbreeding depression, and a population of 25 plants would be enough. I’ve tried other ways to mark melons (flags, magic markers) but the grease pencil works nicely. Having a big number right there on the skin of the melon works to stop any crew about to harvest it. Photo Nina Gentle
  42. 42. Numbering watermelon Mark chosen watermelons using a grease pencil. Photo by Nina Gentle
  43. 43. Larger scale watermelon seed harvest Twin Oaks Seed Farm
  44. 44. Watermelon seed harvest • Once a week I harvest for seed, taking melons that are very ripe and discarding any that don’t look healthy. • I like to only deal with 6 to 8 melons each time. I keep notes of which numbers I harvest each week, and assess them for size, ripeness and, once I open them, taste. • I take a big knife, several clean buckets and a big spoon (and a damp cloth — it’s messy!). I cut the melon across the middle and taste from the heart. If I don’t like the taste, I don’t save seed from that one. Scooped–out Crimson Sweet shells. Photo Kati Falger
  45. 45. Watermelon seed harvest • It can get hard to find all the numbered melons (that’s where the notebook comes in handy, so I don’t waste time looking for one that I already harvested). • I abandon any numbered melons that don’t ripen early, and I sometimes add any huge melons that pop up after the initial numbering. • Earliness is important to us, though, so I only harvest four or five times and then stop. For us that’s an August task.Crimson Sweet watermelon. Photo Nina Gentle
  46. 46. Photo Twin Oaks Seed Farm
  47. 47. Watermelon seed harvest • If the taste is good I scoop out the heart, which is seedless, into a very clean bucket, for eating later. Then there is a layer that is thick with seeds. I scoop this into the seed bucket. • Lastly I scoop the outer flesh, also relatively seed-free, into the food bucket. The scooped-out watermelon flesh makes great smoothies and sorbets. Crimson Sweet quarters. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  48. 48. Watermelon seed fermenting • These seeds get fermented for about 4 days, stirring daily, then washed similarly to the tomato seeds and dried. • For example, if I harvest and scoop on Tuesday, I wash on Saturday and set the seeds to dry for several days. • One Crimson Sweet watermelon yields 22 grams of seed; 22 melons yield one pound of seed. Photo Pam Dawling
  49. 49. Fermenting cucurbit seeds Photo Twin Oaks Seed Farm
  50. 50. A method of straining seed ferments Twin Oaks Seed Farm
  51. 51. Okra • We only grow one kind of okra (Cow Horn — it gets big without getting tough), and nothing that would cross with it. • Saving seed is just a matter of flagging choice pods on good sturdy plants, and letting those pods ripen. • It’s true that leaving pods or fruit on a plant to ripen will decrease the yield of food from that plant, so it is important to balance your goals and not lose your cash crop for the price of a small packet of seeds. • Cow Horn okra. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  52. 52. • We collect the dry pods before they shatter • We dry the seed in a mouse-proof place. • It’s a large seed, and the dry pods shatter easily, so it’s simple to separate the seed from the pod pieces. • We don’t need a lot of seed, so it’s not a major undertaking. Cowhorn okra, flagged. Photo Raddysh Acorn Marking okra
  53. 53. Breaking open okra pods, extracting seeds
  54. 54. Flowers • We plant “islands” of flowers to attract beneficial insects to our vegetables. Some of these flowers have very easy-to-collect seeds. • Cosmos, French marigold, calendula and dill can all be left growing until dry seeds appear in their heads. These can then be rubbed off into a paper bag. • Clearly this way of growing seeds uses only a small population of each plant, so seed saved this way cannot be sold, but it is fine for home use for vegetable growers doing a bit of farmscaping.
  55. 55. Sunflowers • We grow sunflowers throughout our vegetables, and sometimes we save seed from those. It’s best to leave the developing head on the plant as long as possible, so that it dries down well and the seed fully matures. • The trick is to keep the birds off. Our answer is to tie a bandana over the head, knotted at the back. • When the sunflower stalk dries out, remove the seed head and complete the drying in a place protected from mice. Photo Bridget Aleshire
  56. 56. 8. Summer hoophouse use for seeds • Hoophouses can be great places to grow seed crops. We pull a sheet of shadecloth over our hoophouse in early May • Inside a hoophouse the hotter air can hold more water without causing damp plants. Additionally, the walls of the hoophouse provide a partial physical barrier to prevent cross- pollination. • Check that you have no other crops growing near enough to cross-pollinate. • We have grown southern peas, soup beans and edamame for seed.
  57. 57. Hoophouse summer legume seeds • Summer legumes make a great class of summer hoophouse crops (either as produce or as seed crops). • Where it is humid or rainy, it is hard to grow dry seed crops such as legumes, lettuce, spinach and beets outdoors. • Compared to outdoor crops in our climate, legumes grown in the hoophouse have very clean, unspotty beans and pods. Mature southern peas in the hoophouse. Photo Wren Vile
  58. 58. Growing bean seed • Most bean species are largely self-pollinating, so you will likely have pure seed with 100 feet (30 m) isolation distance, or barrier crops of flowers to distract pollinators. • According to Nancy Bubel, in The Seed Starter’s Handbook, bean seed is ready when your teeth can scarcely make a dent in a sample bean. Maturing happens fast in a hoophouse. Mississippi Silver southern peas in our hoophouse. Photo Twin Oaks Community
  59. 59. Southern peas • We sow in mid-June-mid-July, when we pull up our early warm-weather crops such as cucumbers, early tomatoes and squash. • The seed crops mature in late October or early November, just when we want to transplant our winter salads and greens. • We tried a July 27 sowing, but it was a bit too late — we didn’t harvest much. A 7/25 sowing of Carolina Crowder peas in our hoophouse. Photo Nina Gentle
  60. 60. Southern pea string-weaving cats cradle How we support the southern peas in our hoophouse. Photo Nina Gentle
  61. 61. Edamame • Edamame does particularly well in our hoophouse. • Growing it under cover means we get beautiful pods (an important feature for edamame!). • An advantage of this crop it is that is picked all at once — take it from me that you do not want a crop that requires daily harvesting in high summer in your hoophouse, unless you live in the Far North. • We like Envy edamame, a short bush type that matures quickly. We sow July 27 and harvest Oct 4–13, or Nov 9 for seed. Edamame pods in the hoophouse. Photo Raddysh Acorn
  62. 62. Shelling beans or soup beans • Shelling beans or soup beans have given good results in the hoophouse. • We sowed July 13 and harvested for eating from late September until mid-October, when we let the last pods dry out for seed.
  63. 63. Two seed crops in a year • Clifton Slade in Virginia overwintered collard greens for a seed crop the next spring. He is in zone 7b. He grew a whole tunnel full. • Clif direct seeded Champion collards 12/1. • On 2/15 he started rolling up the side curtains every day, to vernalize the plants. • 90 days from sowing, 3/1, he had greens. • Although he had not intended to sell greens, he did sell about 1000 lbs (450 kg). • On 3/10, the plants flowered. Seed matured earlier than outdoors. • Clif harvested the tops of the plants into totes, using pruners. He had 100 lbs (45 kg) of pods, which gave 30 lbs (14 kg) of cleaned seed. • The yield was double that grown outdoors. • Seeds were bigger than outdoor-grown seed, with good germination
  64. 64. Clif’s second seed crop • After pulling the collard seed crop, Clif transplanted okra in the hoophouse. • Clif was the first to market with fresh okra, and got a good price • Once other growers were selling okra, Clif stopped picking • He let his plants grow a seed crop • The seeds were very plentiful and in very good condition. • Okra really benefits from hot weather!
  65. 65. Hoophouse biennial seed crops Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange suggests that winter greens can be interplanted in a hoophouse with biennials such as carrots or onions for seed. As the biennial plants grow bigger the next spring, remove the greens and let the seed plants grow. Flowering carrots. Photo Wren Vile
  66. 66. West Indian gherkins • I first saw these unusual pickling cucumbers at Monticello. • The origin of the variety is uncertain, but the seed was probably brought to Virginia by people enslaved by Thomas Jefferson. • West Indian Gherkins are very heat tolerant and disease resistant. • They are resistant to Peanut Root Knot Nematodes, which is why we started growing them. Photo Nina Gentle
  67. 67. West Indian Gherkins • These gherkins do not cross with regular cucumbers, nor with watermelon (although the leaves resemble watermelon leaves) • We trellis them in our hoophouse (they are very sprawling long vines, left to their own devices.) • We harvest one end of the row for pickling and one end for seed • We sow 3/31, transplant 4/21, harvest picklers starting 6/12 and pick the seed crop 9/28 – 10/2. • Photo Bridget Aleshire
  68. 68. Leaf beet • Leaf beet or Perpetual Spinach, is a type of chard. • When seed was unavailable one year, I dug up a few outdoor leaf beet plants in the fall and replanted them in our hoophouse. • Leaf beet is biennial, so in the spring tall flower stalks grow up and make seed. • For better seed growing, a bigger population of plants would be needed to guarantee genetic diversity. • The second year that I did this, I learned a trick of beet seed growing: • Cut down the first tall stems that appear and you get many more flower stems, at a shorter height — two advantages: more seed, less stem. • An unexpected benefit was the wonderful smell of the flower heads! • Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  69. 69. 9. Storage • Seeds must be stored dry and cool and airtight once dry. • Make sure your storage places are mouse-proof. • Initial storage can begin when seeds are down to 8 percent moisture. At this level, seeds break or shatter when you try to fold them or hit them with a hammer. They don’t bend or mash. • Put them in a jar (optionally with an equal weight of a desiccant such as silica gel) for 7 days. For USDA Certified Organic, check the OMRI list before using desiccant - only use allowed materials. • Then remove the desiccant and put seed in a labeled bag inside a labeled glass or metal container with an airtight lid. • For long-term storage, put your airtight jar or can in the freezer. • When removing seeds from the freezer, allow the container to warm to room temperature for a day before opening. This prevents moisture from condensing on the seeds.
  70. 70. • Take a thick paper towel, fold it lengthwise, unfold it and spread 50 or 100 seeds along the inside of the fold. Close the fold, dampen the towel with water and roll it up loosely. Put it inside a loosely closed plastic bag and set the bag somewhere at a suitable temperature. • Beware the top of gas water heaters: this inhibits tomato seeds and other nightshades. • 75°F (24°C) is good for most vegetables, 80°F (27°C) is better for tomatoes and peppers, 85°F (29°C) for melons. • See Nancy Bubel, Seed Starter’s Handbook, for ideal temperatures for different crops. Often the top of the fridge is suitable • Check twice a day (the air change will help the seeds even if you know it’s too early to see sprouts). • Count the sprouted seeds after 7 days and remove the sprouted ones • Repeat after another 7 days and add this count to the first one to calculate your percent germination. Germination testing
  71. 71. Seed Saving and Plant Breeding Resources  The Seed Garden, Micaela Colley and Jared Zystra, Seed Savers Exchange,  Seed to Seed, Suzanne Ashworth, 1991, ISBN 0-9613977-7-2  The Seed Savers Handbook, Jude and Michel Fanton, ISBN 0-646-10226-5  Back Garden Seed Saving: Keeping Our Vegetable Heritage Alive. Sue Strickland, 2001. ISBN 978-1899233090  Vegetable Seed Production, Raymond A.T. George, 1999  Seed Production: Principles and Practices, Miller McDonald & L Copeland  Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, Carol Deppe, 1993, ISBN 0-316-18104-8  Organic Seed Grower, John Navazio, 2012, ISBN 9781933392776  Diseases and Pests of Vegetable Crops in Canada, Ronald Howard, 1994, ISBN 0-9691627-3-1  Principles of Plant Breeding. 2nd Ed. R.W. Allard, 1999.  Seed Starter’s Handbook, Nancy Bubel,  Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers, 5th Edition, Donald Maynard, 2006, ISBN: 978-0-471-73828-2 Widely available online
  72. 72. More Resources (Checked Jan 2020) Seed production manuals from The Organic Seed Alliance  bean-seed-production-pacific-northwest/  radish-seed-production-pacific-northwest/  spinach-seed-production-pacific-northwest/  Beet Seed Production: Quick Reference  Broccoli Seed Production: Quick Reference  Winter Squash Seed Production: Quick Reference  Cucumber Seed Production: Quick Reference  Tomato Seed Production: Quick Reference  Sweet Corn Seed Production: Quick Reference  Kale Seed Production: Quick Reference
  73. 73. Even More Resources  The Seed Savers Exchange  The Grassroots Seed Network https://grassroots-seed-  Organic Seed Resource Guide  Activity Guidebook in the Living Tradition of Seed Saving, Eli Kaufman Seed production manuals from Saving Our Seeds :  Isolation Distances Seed Processing and Storage  Bean Seed Production Brassica Seed Production  Cucurbit Seed Production Pepper Seed Production  Tomato Seed Production  Publications on seed saving from Saving Our Seed SOS (different from Saving Our Seeds)  PRESCO Biodegradable Flagging Tape –
  74. 74. The Seed Garden Planning for Seed Saving and Lots of Vegetables ©Pam Dawling 2020 Author of Sustainable Market Farming and The Year-Round Hoophouse