Spring is just around the corner. That happy thought leads me to my happy place; being outside in the garden.
Here in central Ontario Canada, there are still a couple of months before that can happen. After all, it’s February and the only thing growing in our yard are the piles of snow, and if I want to wander through my garden, I’ll have to shovel a path first. But that’s not an unhappy thought as it means I have plenty of time to plan this year’s plot and start germinating seeds.
Starting seeds indoors is the perfect way to get a head start in a shorter growing season, and the seeds I’ll sow this spring include tomatoes, peppers, Swiss chard, along with some tender herbs and annual flower varieties, were harvested last summer and into the autumn.
I’ve been a seed saver as long as I can remember. That’s not exactly true. I remember when it first occured to me that I could save seeds. It began with the sale of our family farm. While cleaning out the kitchen, I discovered several varieties of flower seeds in the top kitchen cupboard, right at the back, likely placed there decades before by my Great-Grandmother.
The old tin I discovered contained Sweet William, Hollyhock, and others heirloom varieties, a real treasure. I immediately planted them in my garden back in Toronto, and still grow flowers from those original seeds, 20 years and two houses later.
All of that might make me a seed sentimentalist, but I’ve since learned other reasons for saving seeds, and one of those reasons might convince others to give it a go.
Here’s my list of reasons. Please feel free to let me know if you can think of anything I may have left out.
1.) Saving seed appeals to my motto of “waste not want not”.
I hate to see anything good go unused. The economical reasons alone, especially in today’s financial climate and pandemic, makes a ton of sense. Seed savers know that by gathering up seeds and storing them carefully away for next year’s garden is preservation for next year’s crop, and less money to fork out. (Pardon the pun!)
2.) Personal selection.
I like the thought of developing my own vigorous strains over several seasons of selective seed saving. Saving seeds from the plants with the qualities you most prize, you will soon have varieties that are ideally adapted to your garden and growing conditions.
3) Maintain bio-diversity.
Fewer and fewer old varieties of food crops are available, so seed saving keeps vegetable varieties and the world’s food choices diversified. Think Irish potato famine.
Today many of the world’s food plants are disappearing, including vegetables, grains and fruit varieties. Approx. 70 % of the world’s major food plants have already been lost. This is because modern agriculture practices require high yield, uniform plants, so the genetic base of the world’s food plants has been greatly reduced. This has left the world dependent on a few, closely related varieties of each crop.
4) Historical value. (For the sentimenatlists like me)
Many plant varieties we save or trade are living links to the past. Seed saving is a way to link with our ancestors. As gardener’s this is a responsibility and opportunity to pass these wonderful heirlooms to future generations.
We don’t need big corporate seed companies taking care of us and choosing the foods and flowers that we can grow. Many of these companies sell varieties that are tasteless, but travel well. That’s not a good enough reason for me. Self reliance is very satisfying. It is our right to save seeds and make sure that there is enough variety on the planet. Bio-diversity is part of the cycle of life.
This year especially, I’m relieved I took a bit of time last year to harvest, dry and carefully store my seeds. I don’t have to rely too much on trying to locate any of the varieties I already have on hand when supplies are short, and like toilet paper, they may be hard to locate.
In any case, if you can save your seeds this fall, next spring you may thank yourself, too. Happy Gardening!