Seed saving from some plants is easy, even for the inexperienced gardener, says Kim Stoddart
Although in August most thoughts are firmly focused on trying to keep up with the picking of produce from your now harvest-laden vegetable plots, it is also a good time to consider leaving some plants in the ground for seed saving come the autumn.
If you have never tried before, 2018, with its plethora of dry sunny days, is looking like a good year to get started. As well as saving money for the following season, you will also be creating home-produced capsules which have been perfectly adapted to the growing conditions where you are. While saving all of your own seed would be time-consuming and a bit of a faff, producing at least some is hugely rewarding and earns you many additional resilience brownie points and knock-on benefits.
Getting started Lettuce and rocket Peas and beans
In a dry summer, just leave the plants to bolt and flower naturally. You can then collect and store the resulting seed, or experiment with sprinkling some directly on the ground for self-germination in 2019. Peas are the easiest to work with as there aren’t any concerns about them crossing with other varieties. Simply leave some pods on your plants to fatten and dry out and then remove to safely store away (in a sealed paper bag ideally) for the following year.
Beans are also good to save from, but the likes of runner or broad bean will potentially cross if you have another variety also growing on your patch. If you are just growing one type then dry and store as usual. If, however, you have a few varieties in the ground, all it means is that the seed you are producing might just be a mix of them all. This isn’t likely to be a bad thing. In fact, it could be great, but you just won’t know until the following season. This is part of the fun. Dwarf French beans are also a reliable option to work with.
Tomatoes and chillies
These are also good to save from. Both could mix with other varieties grown nearby, but this isn’t something to be concerned about. In the case of chillies, it means that they are likely to be a bit hotter next year, which is (if you are a chilli lover) no bad thing. In the case of saving chillies, you just eat the flesh and dry out the seed.
Traditional advice dictates that tomato seed is supposed to be fermented first to
remove the fleshy surround before drying. I think that is unnecessary work, so I would recommend one of two options. If you have a greenhouse or polytunnel, push a few ripe tomatoes into the ground at the end of the season so they can germinate the following spring. This is an old market gardener’s trick which is highly effective and fuss free. Or you can leave the seed to dry on a piece of card or paper. Make sure to leave a gap around each seed. It will stick to the card, but this can be planted alongside it next year. What could be easier?
Kim Stoddart teaches a range of resilient grow-your-own courses from her smallholding in Ceredigion that are focused around polytunnel growing and climate change gardening. For more information, visit www.greenrocketcourses.com; tel: 07796 677178.
Kim with her kale in the process of setting seed
Peas in the pod
Earwigs don’t cause much of a problem, although they do like corn on the cob
Runner beans drying out in the pod will be saved
Rocket in flower