I’ve heard folks squawk that you shouldn’t plant your watermelons near your pumpkins, because the two will cross and you’ll harvest neither delicious watermelons nor beautiful pumpkins, but a pithy mixed-up goblin of a gourd instead. Them folks is confused. In fact, data is uploaded to a seed from the prior generation’s pollination situation, and if you’ve purchased watermelon seed, it is already determined to “Run Program: Watermelon”. And the same goes for the pumpkin seed; it’s going to fulfill its pumpkin legacy. Furthermore, any and every plant will only cross-pollinate with other plants of the same species, and pumpkins and watermelons are not the same species. Therefore, plant your pumpkins and your watermelons wherever suits your toots.
But now, let’s say you are having a banner growing year and thinking of taking the next step in your journey toward gardening guru status: harvesting and saving seeds from your glorious garden to plant next year. While planting a garden and caring for the crops all season is a labor of love indeed, saving seeds is an additional task of attentiveness that rewards with long lasting results. Not only will you have seeds of your own to start the next season, but the work itself will challenge you to pay attention to some details previously gone unnoticed.
I started to take an interest in seed-saving almost as soon as I started farming back in 2010, and quickly learned that saving seeds is a case of not being able to have your cake and eat it, too. Growing bush beans for seed, for example, requires passing up tender green beans and watching them grow tough and bulge out with the new seeds inside, until the pods turn brown and dry out with maturity.
Since I’m really in the business of growing marketable crops, saving seeds needs to be a pretty intentional and planned out process. I want to save seeds from the finest heads of lettuce, but I also want to get those same fine lettuce heads to my members or even my own salad bowl, so I better grow a lot of lettuce if I want to harvest the seed from just a few beauties. With all of the tasks and ToDos there are to do, I’ve found success by choosing to focus on just one or two seed crops I want to save at any given time. This lends me the opportunity to allot time to follow through with the seed harvesting, which often does not top my long list of priorities in peak season, and also the time to prepare and learn about this specific variety for successful harvest.
I’m no expert on seed-saving; as I said, I still check my resources for each crop I want to save, but it’s really quite easy to get started as a hobbyist. And in addition to having ‘free’ seeds to plant, each seed I’ve saved has a story, so when I pull the packets of bean and lettuce seed out of storage in the spring, I reminisce as I place them into greenhouse trays or straight into the ground, hoping for another bountiful generation in the garden. I’d like to share these stories with you and encourage you to give seed-saving a try. Stay tuned for stories from my ventures in seed saving…