With October here and a distinct chill in the air, it time to think about protecting all your fruit trees that you’ve nurtured through the growing season. Fruit trees are especially attractive to animals that love to eat the bark and nibble the buds for winter food. If you want to avoid the cost of replacing trees year after year, make a plan now to keep pests away.Read More
Step by step guides to the hand pollination of corn and squash as well as resources on rearing pollinators for your fields or gardens. Free downloadable resources for you to save and print, including a guide to Midwestern Native Pollinators.Read More
Saving seeds from your home garden is easier than it may seem, but never underestimate the power of having the right tools for the job. Here are some of our favorite tools for beginning backyard seed savers and an explanation of how to use them.Read More
If you have winter squash in your garden that are ready to be harvested, these simple steps can help you store them a bit longer so that you can delay processing, seed saving, and pie making until later in the winter when you’ve worked your way through your less patient produce.Read More
This month we asked two experienced staff members at Seed Savers Exchange to share their knowledge about saving seeds from biennials. Our Field Manager, Bryan Stuart, and one of our Field Technicians, Trevor Madsen, took the time to answer a few questions about biennial plants. Read on for their detailed responses or click through the slideshow for some quick biennial seed saving steps.Read More
Part of the responsibility that comes with maintaining a seed collection containing over 20,000 rare garden varieties includes testing for and eradicating viruses and diseases. This week the staff in our Preservation Department were busy performing ELISA tests (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests) to identify any squash specimens infected with the squash mosaic virus (SMV). Roughly 1,000 seedlings were tested from 28 varieties.Read More
Are you an apartment dweller with a green thumb? Or a novice who's daunted by the thought of a full-blown garden? Well, don’t fear because we’re here with a list of lovely varieties that thrive in containers. And we’re here to tell you that you don’t need a yard to be a seed saver.Read More
Some people mistakenly believe that farmers have a “down season.” Without the twelve hour days harvesting and weeding, a winter spent reviewing crop spreadsheets and lounging by a wood stove might feel like vacation. Winter: that mythical space between the last harvest and first plantings, where all wrinkles get ironed out and new vortexes of time are uncovered. Day trips? Sleeping in? Hanging out with friends? Everything seems possible now, within this precious window. Winter slows everyone's roll, it’s true, but farmers are often working throughout the seemingly dormant season.Read More
In our grandparents' day seed saving was just part of gardening.
Store-bought seed, like store-bought anything, was a luxury for my Grandma. She could only afford to order what she couldn’t easily save- for instance, the seeds of biennial vegetables like carrot, cabbage, beets and kohlrabi. The whole community saved their garden seed back then. It was as natural to gardening as planting and harvesting crops. I helped my Grandfather pluck the seeds off his morning glories each fall and never thought I was doing anything out of the ordinary. The seed—along with the skills on how to save the seed—was passed down from generation to generation.
Over the years, this seed saving component of the garden has vanished and garden seed has become something you simply purchase each year from your favorite catalog or garden center. It is understandable, then, why new gardeners would not be aware of how their seeds were produced in the first place, and so the process is often perceived as somewhat mysterious.
Today, planning your garden for seed saving is really not that much different or any more difficult than it was back in the days of my grandparents. Some of my garden favorites like tomatoes, beans, peas and lettuce are self-pollinating crops that don’t readily cross, so they’re easy to save. Of course you must have non-hybrid varieties so the seed your harvest and plant will produce the same variety as the parent plant (read more about open-pollinated, hybrid, and heirloom seeds here).
This past year I was pleased to be involved in creating a new Seed Saving Collection for the Seed Savers Exchange catalog. This starter kit includes some of our popular varieties that could be grown side by side in one garden, plus step-by-step seed saving instructions for each crop type. I’m excited to offer a solution for all those gardeners who thought seed saving was somehow difficult. It’s easy to become a seed saver!
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.
Corn (Zea mays) is what we around here consider a ‘promiscuous pollinator.’ That’s because it is an outcrossing, wind-pollinated crop. Because corn relies on wind to carry pollen from the tassels to the silks, the light pollen grains may travel a few miles before finding and pollinating a silk. Your neighbor’s corn can therefore very easily pollinate yours, making it tricky to save pure seed from your open-pollinated corn.Read More