It’s our busiest time of year for seed saving and we are harvesting and processing all of our new seeds. It’s exciting to see the love and attention we have put into growing the soil over the last two years really starting to pay off.
Mel, with the help of our tireless gardening apprentices, has been processing 19 varieties of organic heritage tomato seeds almost constantly for two-months now and we have had some beautiful crops.
To make sure we are not reproducing weak plants, we first pull out any unhealthy or stunted tomato plants, and choose only good looking and tasting tomatoes to save the seeds from.
Processing tomatoes starts with cutting the tops off and squishing the seeds into a jar.
This gets left for a couple of days to ferment, helping to separate the tomato pulp and weaker seeds, which float to the top while the strong heavy seeds sink.
We have taken up the challenge of Jon C Frank in his Seedling Vigor and Superior Seed Quality articles and are determined to improve our seedlines.
Selecting our seeds for size and weight means only the most vigorous plants are re-grown for seed from our ‘mother seed’ so the plants get stronger and healthier with each generation.
After tipping the lighter seeds and other debris off the top, the best seeds get strained onto mesh and go into the dryer for a few days till their moisture content is only 10%.
We currently use an electric drier, (with a solar powered one on the ‘to do’ list), but if you’re not drying in commercial quantities you could just dry them in the sun at home.
The seeds also go into the freezer for a few days to kill off any bugs and then they are ready for storing in our consistently cool seed room. On Thursday nights we have a seed packing party and from here they start winging their way towards you.
We have also had a massive harvest of perpetual spinach this year which is ready for planting now. This hardy plant was grown by most of our ancestors and is a great low maintenance year round crop. For Kay’s Tomato, spinach and panir casserole recipe click here.
It’s starting to get late to plant things in the garden, so now is the time to make the most of the last of the warmer weather.
We have just harvested and processed the purple sprouting broccoli, which was originally grown by the Romans. It is still ok to plant now, and in colder climates it will continue sprouting for months rather than just producing one head.
The Borecole and Red russian kale are also both fine to plant now.
This is the first seed harvest of Borecole from our Wairoa seed garden. We’ve been growing it in our isolation garden, (to prevent cross pollination with other varieties) for over a year and are quite excited to finally be harvesting such a healthy and nutrient dense crop.
Bucking the “plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest” rule, now is a also good time to order our early garlic, Rocombole. Unlike most garlic which goes in in June, Rocombole can be planted in April and May to be ready for mid-November onwards.
If you’re like us and want flowers for winter, we have some prolific self-seeders: Heartsease and Calendula, available now, which are good companion plants. As a type of pansy, Heartsease represents loving thoughts, while Calendula can mean “my thoughts are with you” or “winning grace” in Victorian flower language.
And though it may seem a long way off, if you put sweet peas (meaning shyness) in now, they will be flowering by early Spring, just like this years, crop of seed-saving interns and apprentices.