Seed Saving in Nelson


The curl of a pea or squash tendril, the flower petals of my newest flower, Torch Tithonia, also known as Mexican Sunflower, or the little frog sitting in a curve of the Orach leaf remind me to stop and enjoy the beauty around us. Color, shape, and texture draw my eye, fragrance attracts humans and pollinators. Hummingbirds try my nasturtiums, bumbles dine on the borage flowers, and the flowering thyme has a variety of buzzing insects all over it.

Mixing flowers and vegetables helps draw pollinators in so they can work for us. Some plants rely on those pollinators. In the spring I planned to put my plants/seed in where they wouldn’t cross-pollinate with similar plants. Peas, as well as beans, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and lettuce, are mainly self-pollinating, meaning they are pollinated when the flower is closed. I know, you’re thinking back to those eighth grade science lessons of the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel crossing pea pollen, creating tall and short pea plants. Legumes, peas are a legume, can do both types of pollination. Tricky. I’m lazy and typically let nature do the work for me.

For about 10 years I have saved seed peas for seed; I’ve saved my garlic for lots longer than that. I wasn’t particular about which peas I saved so some of my pea pods have small peas, some of the pods have few peas, and others have a lot of peas. This year I am starting a genetic engineering “program.” I will save the dried peas from pods that produce a large number of peas for planting and all the other dried peas I will save for cooking.

With garlic I used to plant my largest cloves, but over time I got tired of having bulbs with only 2-3 large cloves. I started planting only the largest bulbs that had 4 or more cloves. This year I had my largest harvest of what I think of as JUMBO bulbs. As you can see in the photo my largest bulb was the size of my hand. Garlic likes lots of nutrition and was happy this year.

For a few years I have been growing an open source (curious about open source, click here) English cucumber and saved the seed. They have grown true, meaning they are the same every year. They are prolific and can be as long as a foot! I put some of those seed into the Nelson and Keene library seed catalogs (or seed bank). Perhaps some of you are growing them this summer.

Pea selection

Another easy plant to save seed from is lettuce. If you have lettuce in your garden and it starts to “bolt” (get bitter and tall), let it flower. Those flowers will attract pollinators, and when the seed heads dry and turn fluffy, cut the stem and rub the seeds off over a bucket. On a day with a gentle breeze, tip your bucket of lettuce seed slowly, letting the seed fall down into another bucket below. The wind will “steal” the chaff and sometimes a few seeds. After you have done this a few times you will be left with just the seed. Do this in a place where you don’t mind lettuce growing, just in case the wind steals a few seeds.

Every year your Agricultural Commission refreshes the seeds in the library for Nelson citizens. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have seeds grown in Nelson shared and nourished by Nelson residents? Let’s share seeds grown in our gardens with the library to help our neighbors. Just think, one bean plant will produce 20 pods and each pod can have 5 to 6 beans, so the total number of beans per plant is approximately 100 to 120. Multiply that over a few years. That is impressive!

Saving seed is easy, saves you money, and when stored properly, seeds will last for many years. Over time the plants will be adapted to our environment and soils, which is a lovely bonus. On the Ag Com website you will find links to seed longevity and proper storage.

Please consider sharing your seeds with the library and your neighbors. In the meantime enjoy the shapes, colors, scents, and surprises of summer while taking time to consider the potential in all those developing seeds.

Read Earlier Ag Com Articles

Foot-long cucumber

Garden surprise

Lettuce flowers

Current harvest and pea & tomato seed drying for next year

Lettuce Seed, ready for harvest

By |2021-08-10T17:46:30-04:00August 9, 2021|Nelson Agricultural Commission, Nelson in Common|0 Comments

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