Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
Eat healthier. Save money. Create local jobs.

Posts tagged [savers]

Setting Up Your Garden for Seed Saving

A few posts ago I shared that one of the biggest challenges I face personally as a market-gardener is being disciplined to start seeds when I’m scheduled to start them. Life is full of distractions and shifting priorities which means that more than once I’ve gone to bed thinking “Crap! I was supposed to start seeds today!” Now that I’m trying to plant by the phases of the moon, the pressure has escalated.

So you can imagine the giant eye roll I gave to myself when I realized Thursday that I was supposed to start a ton of seeds on Wednesday. It looked a lot like this…


Add to that the fact that I was also supposed to start a ton of seeds on Thursday and you’ll understand why I spent a big chunk of the day folding newspaper pots and stayed up till nearly midnight planting seeds. (But I got done before midnight… technically still Thursday – YES!!)

While I was planting cherry tomatoes (Black Cherries and Tommy Toes), slicing tomatoes (Moneymaker), sweet basil, Golden zucchini, Fordhook zucchini, zinnias, Charleston Gray watermelon, and California Wonder peppers, I wanted something to listen to other than the pitter patter of rain. So I decided to catch up on something else I missed because my life got distracting: A webinar from Seed Savers Exchange on how to setup your garden for seed saving.

This webinar was a great way to multitask and make late-night seed-sowing that much more enjoyable. The information is very complete but straightforward and easy enough for a beginner (i.e., me) to understand. Please don’t think even for a moment that I am an expert on seeding saving, however, I thought I’d take the time to create a very simplified summary of the information provided in the webinar. If you don’t have time to watch the video, I promise these tips will help you… but you should make time to watch the video as well.

Basic Tips for a Seed-Saving Garden

  • You should learn the basics of pollination and specifically how the plants you’re growing are pollinated.
    • Some plants are self-pollinators with ‘perfect’ flowers (both male and female parts in the same flower). Examples include legumes (peas, beans) and tomatoes.
    • Some plants are out-crosses with both male and female flowers on the same plant such as squash plants.
    • Some plants are out-crosses where one plant is male and the other is female. Spinach falls into this category.
  • Know your plant’s genus and species because any plants in the same species can cross-pollinate. Cross pollination means that the fruit that comes from the seed you harvest won’t be true to its parent.
  • Keep in mind that just because plants are the same crop doesn’t mean that they are all of the same species. For example, there are four different species of squash. If you grow one plant from each of the four species, you won’t have to worry about cross-pollination. (For more detailed info on cross-pollination between squash species – and the teeny exception to the rule I just mentioned – click here.)
  • Know the weeds in your area because they may be of the same genus and species as the plants in your garden. For example, Queen Anne’s Lace is the same species as carrots. If this ‘weed’ cross-pollinates with your carrots, the carrots which come from your harvested seeds will turn out… weedy.
  • Preventing cross-pollination requires the use of isolation methods.
    • Complete Isolation: Grow only one variety of a crop (i.e., only one kind of tomato).
    • Isolation by Distance: Click here for information to help you determine how much distance you need to give you a better chance of avoiding cross-pollination.
    • Isolation by Timing: Plant varieties that will shed pollen at different times or strategically plant them to shed pollen at different times (i.e., planted a few weeks apart).
    • Isolation by Barrier: This involves use of tents and row covers. If you have two varieties of a certain species, you only need to use a barrier with one of them.
    • Hand Pollination: You can hand pollinate selected flowers and gather those fruits specifically for harvesting seeds. For more details on hand pollination, click here.
  • To fully represent your plant/fruit population, you’ll want to gather seeds from several plants and fruits. In general, the more inbred your seeds are (typically from self-pollinators) the smaller the population can be (because they are already used to limited diversity.) Out-crossing pollinators will need a larger population size.
  • To better control cross-pollination, you’ll want to know how your plants are pollinated. Do you have lots of bees and butterflies? Lots of wind? What are the other pollination sources in your area (i.e. neighboring gardens and weeds)? Know the plants you want to save seeds from – how far can its pollen travel?

Planning Your Garden for Seed Saving


Saving Seeds at Arcadia Farms {2013}

So as I was stuffing compost into newspaper pots I got to thinking – which plants should I select to save seeds from this year? Since this will be my first year (properly) saving seed, I decided to start with some of the easy self-pollinators. Fortunately I laid out the garden to provide some isolation between crops of the same species but different variety so the isolation by distance should help me out. I have lots of pollinators (especially bees) in my garden so, knowing that pollen could travel to my plants from neighboring gardens, I think starting with these self-pollinators (which typically have fully enclosed reproductive parts) is a good place to start. I’ll keep you posted on the nuts and bolts of actually harvesting and storing the seeds. Meanwhile, if you’re a visual person, here’s a map of our garden layout so you can see the distances between each variety. With all of these factors in mind, I’ve decided to keep seeds from the following plants:

  • White Tomesol Tomatoes
  • Black Cherry Tomatoes
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Dragon Tongue Bush Beans
  • Sugar Ann Sugar Snap Peas
  • Rat’s Tail Radishes
  • Charleston Gray Watermelon
  • Table King Acorn Squash
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins
  • Quinoa (mostly for eating, though!)

Since my watermelons (Citrullus lanatu) are a different species than my acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo) the fact that they live next door to each other shouldn’t be an issue for cross-pollination. Likewise, all of the tomato plants in the main garden will be far enough apart to minimize my concerns for cross-pollination. Unfortunately the tomatoes I’m planting in the Fenceline Garden (Moneymaker slicing tomatoes and Tommy Toe cherry tomatoes) will be close enough that I’m not going to take my chances with saving their seeds this year. Next year I’ll rotate those varieties into the main garden so that I can save some seeds.

Do you save seeds from your garden? Any tips? Do you use any of the isolation methods discussed above and in the video? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally. 

 
 

Planting Herbs in Upcycled Tin Cans

This winter I shared with you that I want a beautiful, traditionally styled, super-sized tea garden full of straight-up tea plant (Camellia sinensis) hedges and oodles of herbs. Despite my grandest dreams, our micro-farm only has room for a micro tea garden. So instead of having something like this…

formal garden

{Image Credit}
www.dnalandscape.com

I’m going to have something like this…

tin can herbs

{Image Credit}
http://fotofraulein.blogspot.com

I’ll be growing herbs for tea in upcycled tin cans which will hang from the posts of our garden fence. I’m also hoping to add some herb containers closer to the house. This weekend I got started on planting my first herbs – stevia.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with stevia, it is a natural sweetening alternative to cane sugar. I’m going to use the leaves in tea but you can also use it in powder form for baking. (Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the aftertaste it leaves in baked goods.) I’m starting small with just five containers. Here’s what I did.

I’ve been collecting an assortment of tin cans all year. I grabbed five of them and used a drill to make holes in the bottom. Because stevia likes well-drained soil, I wanted to add a little something to the bottom of each can to create air pockets for drainage. What better to use than some of the myriad twigs lying around my yard? Cleans my yard up a smidge (ok, a very tiny smidge), makes good use of what would otherwise be yard waste and creates a mini-hugelkultur climate in my herb containers. Win win win!

holes in tin can planter for herbs

I started by drilling drainage holes in the bottoms of my tin cans.

tin can herb planters with twigs for drainage

Next I added a layer of fallen twigs. These will aid in drainage by creating air pockets and will also add a hugelkultur effect to these tiny planters.

planting stevia in tin can herb planters

I’m planting stevia from Seed Savers Exchange in these mini-planters.

I’ve never grown stevia before… can’t wait to see (and taste) what lies ahead! And I’m super excited about all the other tea-worthy herbs that are yet to come.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

Chitting (Sprouting) Seed Potatoes

bags of seed potatoes

Our seed potatoes came yesterday! I ordered certified organic Nicola and Desiree seed potatoes from Seed Savers Exchange and can’t wait to get them planted! (I also ordered sweet potatoes from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds and expect they’ll be coming soon as well.)

This year before I plant my potatoes I’m going to chit some of them. No, I didn’t just cuss at you. Chitting potatoes is the act of sprouting them before they are planted. This is my first year trying it out, but those who’ve done it before say you can harvest your taters up to three weeks early if you follow these steps. Here’s a quick tutorial.

Chitting Potatoes – A How-To Guide

  1. Start the process 3-4 weeks before you’re ready to plant the potatoes in the ground
  2. Place the potatoes in a bright location (sunny windowsill or under a florescent/grow lamp)
  3. Sprouts will emerge. Try to keep the potatoes stable so that these sprouts don’t get broken. Placing the potatoes in an open egg carton would do the trick.
  4. Plant the sprouted potatoes just like you would plant them without sprouts. Just like you plant regular potatoes withe eyes facing up, plant these with the sprouts facing up.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Seed Sources

lettuce seedlings in seed starting mediumI did it!

After many hours of possibly making the process more complicated than it needed to be looking through seed options, I’ve selected plant varieties for Arcadia Farms’ 2013 season! This is an exciting time for a gardener – exploring the vast world of possibilities as you imagine what your upcoming garden could become, what it could yield. There are so many varieties and sometimes making a choice between what would be prettiest and what would be most productive is an agonizing trade off.

Deciding what to grow is made one step easier for me by our members. All of our CSA members provide us with a list of veggies they love, veggies they hate, and veggies they’re willing to try when they submit a completed Membership Application. Last week I spent quite a bit of time digesting (pardon the pun) those preferences to amend the original garden plant I presented to you in this blog post last fall.

Based on customer preferences, the Main Garden will now look like this and the Fenceline Garden will now look like this. (Click on the links in the previous sentence to see a visual representation of what the gardens will look like in spring. Keep in mind that you’ll need to zoom in quite a bit – like 400% – to see the details.) I also have some succession plans for replacing crops that will be fully harvested early in the season, such as lettuce or peas. More on that when the time is ripe. (Get it???) I’m eager to share info with you on all the varieties we’ll be growing, including information on where to buy the very same seeds we’ll be using. I’ll also talk about a seed-starting plan so you know what to plant, when to plant it and where to plant it (indoors or direct-seed). But alas, I’m not quite ready to share that info now. (I’ve been way to busy drooling over photos of heirloom tomatoes and plugging price-to-seed-count numbers into my what-should-I-buy spreadsheets!)

All the same, I recognize that if I’m thinking about what to plant this year, you probably are too. I’m not ready to spill the beans (get it???) on everything I’m planting, but I most certainly would like to help your search by sharing some tips on where to get seeds. So without further ado (and no more tasteless food-puns… did I say tasteless??…) here is a list of some of my favorite sources for seeds. You probably know of even more seed sources – we'd love to hear about them! Please stop by our website and share your thoughts, reviews and sources in the comments section!

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds is owned and operated by Scott and Julie as (in their own words) “a labor of love.” Their “about” page explains that they have “chosen to grow heirloom vegetables for a variety of reasons.  Better taste, better nutrition, disease-resistance, independence, and self-sufficiency all play a role.” However, the “heart” behind their operation is to honor the traditions and influence of their grandparents who passed gardening knowledge and passion on to this couple. Scott says “that connection with the past, more than anything else, is the reason we love heirloom vegetables.” Annie’s has a good selection (if you can find it with one of these other vendors, you can probably find it with Annie’s too) and I love that they are a Michigan-based company (Clarksville, MI). I’ll be doing business with Annie’s whenever I can.

 

Wedel’s Nursery, Florist and Garden Center

Wedel’s has a rich history of serving the horticultural needs of the greater Kalamazoo area. Founded in 1946, the business has evolved through many stages and locations to become the amazing garden center that stands today at 5020 Texas Drive. As a newbie gardener, I found the staff to be very helpful and approachable. In addition to seeds, Wedel’s sells many gardening supplies, including organic potting soil. Although you can buy online directly from any of the vendors I’ve listed in this post, you can also find many of them in person at Wedel’s (think: no shipping!). I’ve purchased Botanical Interests, Hart’s and Seed Savers Exchange seeds at Wedel’s. If you’re new to gardening, have questions, want to avoid shipping and want to support a local business, you should stop by Wedel’s.

Source: wedels.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

Hart’s

My first garden consisted primarily of Hart’s seeds. I still find that they have some of the best germination rates of all the seeds I start and I’ve always been pleased with the resulting crop. I appreciate that Hart’s is committed to selling only non-GE (genetically engineered) seeds. You can be assured that all of their seeds are open-pollinated seeds. Their packaging isn’t nearly as appealing as some of the other vendors listed here, but don’t let that fool you about what’s inside!

 

Botanical Interests

I’ve grown many crops from these seeds. The packets provide lots of growing tips and usually include recipes on the inside! Lots of heirloom varieties and they also offer some organic seeds. I especially enjoyed their Easter Egg Radishes.

 

Victory Seeds

Victory seed places an emphasis on maintaining seed quality and providing quality customer service. They have packaging and growing procedures in place that help them meet and often exceed industry standards for quality. In their own words “our goal as an organization, is to provide you, our friends and customers, with the highest value for your money — a good selection, reasonable prices, high quality open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, and responsive customer support.” They seem to have a good selection, great prices, and helpful growing information on each crop which has helped me determine which seeds to purchase based on my needs.

 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

I have not yet planted seeds from Baker Creek – 2013 is the first year I’m buying from them. So far, I’m impressed. Their selection is amazing and I appreciate the informative “blurbs” they provide about each plant. Gardener reviews are also great – several of them helped me decide what to purchase and what to pass over. Their website is beautiful and they offer additional products and services, including an Heirloom Gardener Magazine. Their “About” page says “We do not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis. We boycott all gene-altering companies. We are not members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization! We work with a network of about 150 small farmers, gardeners and seed growers to bring you the best selection of seeds available! Many of our varieties we sell were collected by us on our travels abroad.”

 

Seed Savers Exchange

Maybe this is childish, but one of the reasons I like buying from Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is that their website and catalogs have such amazing photos! But there are more grown-up reasons to buy from SSE, like the fact that they are dedicated to preserving America’s gardening heritage by “saving and sharing heirloom seeds.” This non-profit organization is all about preservation of heirloom, unique seeds so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. In addition to seeds they offer cooking beans, books, workshops and seed-saver gatherings.

 

Burpee Organic Seeds

Burpee seeds are everywhere. Meijer. Wal-Mart. Walgreens. Everywhere. They have a good variety of selections and are usually very economical to buy. I personally don’t like the fact that it’s sometimes hard for me to tell by their packaging if seeds are genetically engineered or not. However, I have purchased and grown some non-GE, organic seeds from Burpee and have been satisfied with the results.

Source: burpee.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.   

 
 
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