Seed Saving Tips
**Reminder: Seeds are still available to request (up to 20 seed packets total per individual card holder).
See details and access the Mendocino County Seed Library request form HERE..
While everyone is busy reaping the bounties of their planted crops, now is the time to keep in mind the end of harvest season and seed saving. Each year, to replenish your seed reserves (and, hopefully, save a little extra to donate to the Fort Bragg Seed Library!), let a few of your mature open-pollinated plants go to seed. As they are “seeding”, check out these helpful links on how to prepare those seeds for saving.
First, follow our Mendocino County Seed Library Facebook page. There are daily postings of helpful planting tips, harvest ideas and seed saving tips.
Next, check out these websites and blogspots:
“Grow seed for the common good: Leading education, research and advocacy to advance organic seed”
Helpful seed saving publication found on their website:
“The Alliance for Sustainability: Sustainable, thriving communities where we live.”
And last, some great seed saving tutorials we found:
Planting Chart for Mendocino County
Mendocino County has a varied set of climes all at once within its bounds. Mendocino County’s Local Food Guide has put together a planting chart specifically designed to address all of those areas, giving us the best information on what grows well in our little part of the county. Click here to obtain the chart.
What is Soil Health?
We all want the plants in our gardens to grow strong and healthy but what if they don’t? If your plants are growing well, you may not have to worry about it. However, from the Master Gardener Handbook 2nd Ed.: “because most nutritional disorders of plants are difficult to diagnose from visual symptoms alone, tissue and soil analysis are often needed as well. In some instances, plants may not show symptoms of nutritional deficiencies until severe stress has occurred. So, what do you do if your leaves are discolored or falling off? Or your plants grow but don’t produce? Sadly, it could be due to your soil’s health rather than the plants themselves.
Soil health is defined as the ability of the soil to continually work as a thriving ecosystem that sustains life. Knowing the condition of your soil is vital to this function and every year provides a new chance to learn more about your soil and improve its health.
To learn how to improve your soil’s health you need to know there are three basic types of soil textures: sand, silt and clay. If you don’t know what type of soil your garden has you can check this chart to help determine its texture. You can’t change the texture of your soil but you can manage it using organic material, microorganisms, choice of plants used, nutrients and water flow.
Once you determine your soil’s texture you can learn what grows best with its properties. The University of North Carolina Extension has a great article here on soil properties.
Now that you know your soil and what grows best with it’s properties, the key to achieving healthier soil is building soil organic matter using the 4 basic principles the Natural Resources Conservation Service division of the USDA put together in their checklist for establishing and improving soil health. They are: minimizing disturbance (no till, low till, mulch tillage); maximizing soil cover (cover crop, mulching); maximizing biodiversity (diverse crop rotation, cover crop, no till, low till, holistic pest management, holistic nutrient management); and maximizing the presence of living roots (diverse crop rotation, cover crop, no till, low till). Using these 4 techniques, one should be seeing an improvement in the overall health of their plants.
Still not sure about your soil’s texture and health? Get it tested. You can have your soil tested by sending a sample to one of the laboratories listed here. Home testing kits are available but according to the USDA, they aren’t very reliable. If you’re really concerned about your soil’s health, it would be better to spend a little money to get a more accurate reading than to rely on a home tester.
To all of our seed library patrons out there…Have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year of gardening! See you at the (Seed) Library!
Stories of Seeds
Highlights from our Collection
We want to hear your story! Take a picture of a plant you have saved seeds from and let us know what dishes you’ve made with this plant or share your favorite recipe using this plant. We will highlight a plant in our collection each of the summer months this year.
Submit your photos and short story to: Carole Poma, Fort Bragg Seed Library Coordinator, either in person or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Help Us Grow Local Seed
Our intention is to grow more local seed for the benefit of the community. We are focusing on preserving the local varieties that have significance, are rare or unusual, while increasing food security and local resilience.
How can you help?
Grow out seed. Start with super easy plants. Check with the seed librarian for seeds that are easy and fun to grow for your first grow out.
Join the Fort Bragg Seed Library – we are a group of individuals, seed librarians, non-profit growers working together with a vision to create a network of local seed growers.
Learn the names and needs of local plants. Grow these in your garden. Keep the old time plants of your grandmother or bring them back. Learn some history about your plant as your go.
Grow Out Program
Return quality seed that is well labeled. Use our information sheet to provide information on how your seed was grown and where. Note: some plants readily cross pollinate, such as sunflowers, corn and brassicas. If you are saving seeds from these plants and did not cage or hand pollinate them, PLEASE note this on your return package.
Seed Collecting 101 Workshop
Watch for flyers on our Seed Collecting 101 class coming in September 2018. This will be a “hands on” class for those who have never collected seed and would like some practical experience before going it alone.
Winter Newsletter 2017
Our gardens have long since been put to bed and last summer’s seeds have been saved and stored. Those with winter gardens continue to harvest but those of us who prefer spring gardens will just have to wait out the weather in anticipation of longer days and plentiful sunshine.
In the meantime, let’s talk about seeds…
HEIRLOOM, HYBRID, OPEN-POLLINATED: a Guide (from BountifulGardens.org)
What do all those terms really mean?
And why do they matter?
We started Bountiful Gardens with the idea that people could grow their own food without weird chemicals, and save their own seed, just as gardeners have done for generations. At the time, the seed industry was replacing traditional open-pollinated varieties with hybrids developed for agribusiness. Now, we face the new threat of genetically-altered crops. Here’s a guide to the terms:
TRADITIONAL PLANT BREEDING starts by pollinating the flower of a plant with pollen from a related, but slightly different, variety. Then, over several generations, the plants are selected for certain traits. In this way, broccoli, for example, became different from the tough wild plants that are its ancestors.
As people keep selecting their best plants for seed, the results gradually become more predictable. Eventually every time you plant that kind of seed, the plants give similar results. Then the seed has been stabilized as an open-pollinated variety. The animal equivalent would be beagles, or golden retrievers—you know what to expect in looks and, to some extent, behavior, because they are purebred. Individuals have slight variations within the “family resemblance”.
are open-pollinated varieties that have been around a long time (50 years minimum). Older varieties are often more nutritious and more adapted to organic cultivation–that used to be all there was. Farmers and gardeners are breeding new open-pollinated varieties today that will be the heirlooms of the future. Some people use “heirloom” to mean any open-pollinated variety, new or old, so if you are looking for old varieties, ask the seller what they mean.
are seeds from the first generation of a cross between two varieties. Plants from hybrid seeds are very uniform and predictable, which is why farmers use them (they might all be ready to harvest the same day, for example). However, the next generation of plants won’t be predictable because it is not a stabilized variety–sometimes they are even sterile. The seed doesn’t ‘breed true” for seed-saving, so you have no choice but to buy new seed over and over. Hybrids make gardeners dependent on the companies who produce the seed. Modern commercial hybrids are usually produced using parent varieties that are secret and are not for sale. (The exact cross is controlled either by hand-pollinating the flowers or by planting one row of plants that are only wanted as pollen donors and the next row with seed-bearers incapable of producing viable pollen.) In practice, this gives the company producing the hybrid a monopoly, because the parentage of the seed is a trade secret. By law, hybrid seeds must be labeled “hybrid” or “F1” next to the variety name. We don’t carry hybrids. We feel that food crops should be a common heritage we all share, not a set of trade secrets. Food independence must include seed-saving for local conditions.
are not the result of traditional plant breeding, but of procedures in a laboratory. Instead of using pollen from another plant, technicians can insert genes that don’t even come from plants—some have come from a bacteria or a fish. Often, viruses are used to insert the desired gene. The main GMO crops are corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, cotton, and zucchini squash. GMO seeds are mostly sold to big agribusiness farms who sign a contract with the GMO company. The primary danger to home gardens is not from the seeds we buy (GMO seeds are not sold in the home garden packet trade–they are too expensive.)The real concern is pollen in the air and the food at the store, which tends to have GMO ingredients if it is processed and not certified Organic.
P l a n t i n g & S e e d
C o l l e c t i n g
I n s t r u c t i o n s
Courtesy of Dana County, Oregon Seed Library
Beans Planting : Sow seeds outdoors after danger of frost has passed and soil and air temperatures have warmed. Plant seeds 2″ apart and 1″ deep in rows 36-48″ apart. Beans prefer full sun. Provide support for pole beans. Harvest snap beans frequently for increased yields.
Seed Collection: Bea n flower s a r e s elf-pollinating and almost never cross-pollinate. As a precaution never plant two white seeded varieties side-by-side if you intend to save seed because crossing may occur but not be visible. It is always best to save seed from plants