Tag Archives: Seed Saving

The Winter Solstice: Preparing for Spring

Last night was the longest night of the year! All fall, the days have been getting shorter while the nights have grown steadily longer. Last night we made it to the turning point. The nights will now slowly but surely grow shorter while the days grow longer.

For folks like us in or around zone 7a, the time to start sowing seeds will come surprisingly quickly. Toward the end of January, we’ll begin sowing cool-weather crops like celery, celeriac, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower indoors. In February, we’ll add warmer season crops like tomatoes and artichokes to our indoor plantings. As early as the beginning of March, we’ll begin our outdoor sowings of hardier crops like peas, parsnips, and kale.

Folks in even warmer climates should begin this process even sooner.

Seed Inventory

Unless this is your first year gardening, you probably have some seed on hand. This time a year is perfect for taking stock before putting in your order. Whether you have seed you saved or leftover seed from last year’s order, it’s generally a good idea to test the germination rate. You can find out how to perform an easy germination test and more seed storing tips in our post, Seeds: Tips for Storing, Testing, & Saving.

Garden Planning

It’s also a good time to hammer out the details of your garden plan. There’s much to consider, including what varieties you’ll plant, your garden’s layout, as well as planning for succession planting and seed saving.

Selecting Varieties

There’s a lot to consider when placing a seed order, especially if it’s your first. For new gardeners, we recommend starting small with just a few varieties. You’ll also want to look at your hardiness zone. Folks in northern zones with fewer frost-free days will want to select varieties with fewer days to maturity. Those in warmer zones can consider more slow-growing varieties or plan for multiple successions.

If you’re looking for something new and exciting, check out our last post, New Varieties for 2021!

Garden Layout

Determining your garden space and layout may also help you choose varieties. When designing a layout, you may want to consider companion planting, future crop rotations, and of course, your selected varieties growing habits.

If you’re going to save seed next year, check out a couple of our seed-saving articles listed below. Those articles and our growing guides can help you determine how far apart you need to keep different varieties.

You can plan your layout on a piece of graph paper or check out our garden planner.

Soil Care

Winter is also a good time to do what you can for your soil. Consider getting your soil tested learning about what you can do to improve it. You should also keep up with mulching. It’s essential to keep crops like garlic, perennial onions, and leeks mulched as well as any bare soil.

More Resources

If you’re planning your first garden or caring for an existing one, here are a few more resources to help you this winter.

Learn About On Farm Seed Saving & Crop Diversity Trials

As the seed industry continues to become dominated by big companies it becomes ever more important to pass on seed saving skills and get more folks participating. Seed saving helps to preserve genetic diversity and can help adapt seeds to your local area. Like seed saving, crop trialing can also be a benefit to farmers, whether for their own research or profit.

This January, you can learn these valuable skills from Chris Smith of The Utopian Seed Project & Sow True Seed and SESE’s own Ira Wallace.

This event is a pre-conference workshop, part of an incredible event, the 21st Annual Biological Farming Conference.

The 21st annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference is Virginia’s premier organic and sustainable agricultural conference! The Conference brings together farmers, gardeners, eaters, educators and advocates of biological and organic agriculture.

On Farm Seed Saving

On farm seed saving is somewhat of a lost art, but has many benefits to the farmer (and some challenges). This workshop aims to give you the knowledge to start saving your own seeds as well as a realistic look at generating income through seed grow-outs for seed companies.

– Basic botany of seed production.
– Seed processing and special equipment.
– The business of seed growing (contract growing and dual cropping potential).

Crop Diversity Trials

Crop trialing is another on farm activity that can add a lot of value, either in collaboration with researchers (sometimes paid) or for your own research. Crop trialing can be effective for marketing and farm differentiation, while at the same time growing a marketable crop. This workshop will cover the nuts and bolts of setting up (or participating in) a successful crop trial.

– Setting up an effective trial.
– Marketing and publicity benefits of on farm trials.
– Getting involved with larger trialing efforts.

Mark Your Calendar

This workshop will be held January 11th from 1pm-5pm at:

The Hotel Roanoke
110 Shenandoah Ave NW
Roanoke VA 24016, US

On Farm Seed Saving and Crop Diversity Trials is from 1 to 5 pm on Saturday, January 11, 2020, and is $75 for both VABF members and non-members.

An optional Hotel Roanoke lunch buffet add-on ticket is available for $24 and lunch is available between 11:30 pm and 1 pm in the Regency Dining Room.

Scholarships

Need help with the workshop fee? We’re happy to say that thanks to a generous sponsorship from Southern SARE there are several scholarships available for limited resource black, Native American, women, and other underserved minorities. Click HERE to access the financial aid application.

We can’t wait to see you there!

Fall Reads: Five Books on Seed Saving

From the outset, seed saving can seem like a rather simple affair. How hard could it be to collect seeds from your vegetable plants right? When you start trying to learn, it becomes apparent that things are a bit more complicated then that. All of a sudden your thrown into the world of seeds and you’re trying to learn about things like isolation distances, pollination dynamics, and seed cleaning methods. This fall, add one of these five books to your garden shelf for all the seed saving information you need.

Seed To Seed: Saving Our Vegetable Heritage

Written by Suzanne Ashworth , Seed to Seed provides a comprehensive look at seed saving. It’s perfect for complete beginners or those looking to improve their knowledge. Find information about both common and rare vegetables and herbs from seed collection and storage to maintaining variety purity.

The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving

This wonderful book was a partnership between The Organic Seed Alliance and Seed Savers Exchange. It’s a great companion to Seed to Seed. It focuses more on main vegetable varieties with helpful guidelines for both farmers and home gardeners. It also features new seed saving research.

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties

Create your own locally adapted varieties. Carole Deppe provides an informative look at seed saving and plant breeding for both farmers and gardens. Plus, the book is filled with inspiring tales of such interesting vegetables as popping chickpeas, hairy mustards, purple peas, rainbow corn, storage watermelons, and many more.

The Organic Seed Grower

“An essential guide to high-quality, organic seed production: well grounded in fundamental principles, brimming with practical techniques, thorough in coverage, and remarkably well organized, accessible, and readable.” – Jeff McCormack, Southern Exposure founder. This book is a valuable tool for any seed saver, covering topics like seed-borne diseases, reproductive biology of crop plants, seed crop climates and more.

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties

This book obviously doesn’t provide a comprehensive look at seed saving like those mentioned above, but it is perfect for any tomato enthusiast. Author Craig LeHoullier introduced Cherokee Purple tomatoes to SESE and the world. His book offers incredible insight into all aspects of tomato growing and breeding.

Perfect for your fall reading list, these 5 books can help you save seeds of your own, whether you want to help preserve your favorite heirlooms or breed a local cucumber variety. They’re also a great option to keep in mind for the holidays.