by Leigh Mills
Winter has arrived with snow-covered ground and frozen garden beds. New seed catalogs have started piling up and I feel good knowing I don’t need to spend a bunch of money buying seed because I’ve saved enough vegetable, flower, and herbs seeds this past summer to start this year’s growing cycle and plenty to give away at the seed exchange in February.
I do my best to clean the seed coverings as soon as they are ready. However, I still have a lot of seed to clean and a bunch to package for the seed exchange. Some seeds are easy to clean; others take a bit more time and a few accessories like bowls, trays, and screens. I was able to save a huge amount of carrot seed this year, so I have a bunch of work to do. Carrot seed dries on the plant and I cut off the seed heads and put them in a large bag until I’m ready. I then gently brush the seeds from the head with my fingers and pick out the stems. Then I rub the seeds in a finely screened strainer to remove their ‘hairs’. The finished product isn’t as clean as store-bought carrot seed; however, I’m happy to have been a part of the whole cycle and love sharing them with others.
It’s very important to dry the seeds as much as possible before storing them so they don’t mold or germinate before they are ready to use. I usually let my seeds dry in open trays or bags for several weeks. Then I put them in plastic bags and store them in a big box in a dark, cool room. I use plastic because I have the bags from when I made jewelry. Most seed companies use paper and what I’ve read about seed saving recommends paper to store your seeds. If your seeds are dry enough, then using plastic is fine, such as those snack-sized zip-lock bags. You can also use regular paper envelopes or make your own envelopes from sheets of paper.
After I’ve cleaned and bagged my seed, I label the bag. I use masking tape for my labels. I generally put the name of the seed, the year grown, and which generation they are. This is the third cycle of my carrot seed, or third generation. Here’s what the carrot seed label will say for the seed exchange: “Red Core Chantenay Carrot – 2012 – 3rd generation – Saguache, 8400 ft.”
Some folks I know love having lots of information on the seed packages like planting depth, germination, and length of time until harvest. Since I’ve been gardening for a few years, I’ve learned enough to plant by intuition and harvest with observation. Whenever I feel the need to do some research, I pull out my Seed to Seed book by Suzanne Ashworth or go online to read about that particular seed and how it’s planted and harvested. The Saguache County Library has several books about seed saving and propagating seeds. Feel free to check them out with the inter-library loan system. See you at the seed exchange!