Great balls of seed!

Country Smallholding - - Organic Growing -

Let­tuce seeds are ripen­ing now, the small yel­low flow­ers be­com­ing balls of seed with white fluff on the ends. Each plant can give more than 1,000 seeds and th­ese last up to three years in cool, dry con­di­tions.

Ei­ther pull plants on a dry af­ter­noon to rub out the seeds straight away. Or pull plants and hang them up­side down in an airy, un­der­cover space to rub out seeds when you have time. This is best done when the weather is damp, and it al­lows the plants to dry be­fore de­seed­ing.

I have found that rub­bing the seed­heads be­tween two pieces of wood serves to loosen most of them. Do it over a sheet to en­sure that you catch all of them. At this stage there is also a lot of fluff and other plant de­bris that ac­com­pa­nies the seeds, so do a care­ful win­now­ing in any light breeze from bucket to bucket to help the chaff blow away.

Broad beans and peas should have come dry to har­vest in July or early Au­gust, while run­ner and French beans are dry­ing now if you have left some un­picked for that pur­pose. Run­ner beans may have cross pol­li­nated if you are grow­ing two va­ri­eties in the same gar­den, whereas French beans do not cross pol­li­nate and al­ways stay true.

Many veg­eta­bles re­quire cross pol­li­na­tion from sev­eral of the same plants to main­tain ge­netic di­ver­sity and pre­vent in­breed­ing. Real Seeds web­site has in­for­ma­tion on this, but last au­tumn I strug­gled to find out whether basil needs cross pol­li­na­tion. I risked sav­ing seed from one plant in the green­house and have grown it this sum­mer with fair re­sults. How­ever, the Bin­gen­heim plants (its par­ents) are stronger.

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