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A famous quote from Audrey Hepburn: ‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’.
Lots of us found ourselves planting this spring and the need to believe in a tomorrow at such a challenging period in time was surely a big part of that.
Concern about food security and availability was also preying heavily on people’s minds with news stories of food shortages and empty supermarket shelves. Many of us are also familiar with that almost primal desire to find grounding by getting our hands in the soil in times of trouble and uncertainty.
I have noted more proudly shared photos of thriving tomato plants from my friends this year than any other, along with more recipe requests for green tomatoes of course.
Whether people have got the growing bug or further uncertainty looms on where the world might be in the year ahead predictions for even greater demand for compost and seeds are already being made for next spring.
Seed stores can fluctuate from year to year anyway with weather conditions from the previous season responsible for famine or feast proportions in harvests and therefore seed supplies let alone the demand from garden centre customers looking for an extra packet or six.
I have participated in seed swaps and saved seeds myself in years gone by. If you have a crop which performs well than saving seeds from it is always a good idea as it is likely to be a variety which particularly suits your plot – be it the soil, the climate or your own green fingered skills.
This year though I have made a real concentrated effort to harvest some of the seeds of this year’s flowers, fruits and vegetables, mindful of the frustration of trying to get hold of a packet of salad seeds back in March.
Not all seeds can be harvested – hybrid seeds will not germinate, some seeds cross pollinate too easily and you could think you are sowing one thing only to have something quite different poke its head through the soil.
Cucumbers and melons are the same family, as are courgettes and marrows. Chillies and peppers, squashes and pumpkins can all get cross pollinated as can most varieties of beans. You are safe with crops like peas, tomatoes, lettuces, herbs and flowers, though, so these are great places to start with seed saving adventures.
Like all gardening there is a lot of experimenting, learning as you go and ensuring you are finding the joy in the process and the journey rather than only in the end result of a bumper successful harvest (to be celebrated for sure, but never anticipated).
There is a mindfulness and meditative quality to collecting seeds, to drying them out, to storing them, carefully labelled and putting them away for a winter hibernation ready to bring out next spring and start the process all over again.
The internet has a whole host of tips and information on the best way to treat
My own spare room is currently a seed saving warehouse with peas drying in their pods and a tray of cornflower seed heads getting swept around every time the door opens and a draught blows through.
I have a couple of envelopes of lettuce seeds and nasturtium pods already dried
out and yesterday I spent a lovely few hours sitting in the sunshine snipping off spent dried lavender flowers and coriander seeds. These are now in jars in the kitchen though – not saved for planting but for culinary use.
We used the coriander leaves fresh in cooking through the summer, we enjoyed the flowers of both along with the many bees buzzing around on our decking and now they will add flavour to our curries, cakes and cookies as dried herbs.
It was definitely the most enjoyable and fragrant of the end-of-the-season tasks.