Most major seed companies would obviously like us to keep buying from them every year.
A lot of both flower and vegetables grown in these companies are hybrids or F1’s and don’t come true to form when they go to seed, which keeps our dependency on their stocks. There are a lot of companies that offer Heirloom seeds and like Klaus Laitenberger only produce seed from their own stock which has been acclimatised to our area over a twenty year period.
There is one company in the UK called Real Seeds who actively encourage you to grow some of your own plants to maturity so you can collect your own seeds and eventually never have to buy from them again! If grown, picked and dried thoroughly there is no reason why our own home produces seed isn’t as good, if not better than the shop bought varieties.
Last week I looked at how to dry your seed. This week I would like to tell you about a really cost effective and social way to save your seeds, it’s called a “Seed Circle”
Setting up a Seed Circle
A Seed Circle is a simple idea: You get together a group of friends, gardeners or neighbouring allotment holders, and each of you signs up to save seed of one sort of vegetable.
You’ll each get lots of seed when you save your own (far more than one person can use), so at the end of the year you can all swap with each other.
It’s a great way to start seed saving – you’ll all get several types of good seed for free, but each person only has to learn how to grow one sort. And you can help each other learn as you go.
A Beginners Seed-Circle
Start with a small, simple seed circle of five people.
What you need:
- One person to organise the seed circle (you!)
- Four more people to sign up to grow seed as well
- A bit of time to occasionally check how people are doing
- A few simple kitchen implements to pick, dry and store the seed
- Good quality, real, non-hybrid seed to start with
- Tea and some nice biscuits
It is really good if you organise a get-together occasionally, especially at harvest time, to all have a bit of an inspect of the process and the seed being saved, so you can all learn how to do it together. (hence the tea and biscuits)
It’s best if people save seed from a vegetable that they really like, as they will be more fussy about the plants they save from. So if you have someone who is really passionate about carrots, then they're the person to grow carrot seed for your circle.
Here are a few vegetables that are easy to save seed from, and which make lots of seed. You can of course make up your own list too if you prefer.
Each person is to save seed from just one variety. This keeps it simple. To reduce work you need to do to stop things crossing, it can be best if you also only grow for eating that one variety that year.
Suggested Vegetables to Save Seed From:
Squash, Tomatoes, Sweet Pepper or chilli, Lettuce, Kale, Melons, Cucumber, Peas, Beans, courgettes and carrots.
It can take up a bit of room saving plants for seed . I have the leeks from last year coming on well but they have been in the ground for so long that I haven’t been able to plant anything else. It’s a good idea then to miss a few patches out of the crop rotation plan as the plants mature their seeds. Some plants such as peppers would do better in a polytunnel too.
Processing- ALL SEEDS
In addition, to dry your seed, you'll all need access to an oven, a baking tray, some rice, a clean dry jam-jar, and some small bags made from a pair of tights. And some plastic baggies to store the dried seed in for distribution.
The person organising the seed-circle can do the drying if they like at their house, it is more efficient that way - only one person has to bake the rice, make little baggies and ties as well just for fun.