We didn’t plant a spring garden this year, minus a few yukon gold potato plants (which we’ve already harvested) and a handful of herbs. The spring felt heavy with projects around our home, and I felt the need to let the soil and my management of it rest for a season. In reality, I’m a novice gardener, learning most often though trial and error (more of the latter, I’m afraid), tons of internet research, and the simple practice again and again. I hope bringing my children into the learning process will teach them something practical about botany and science. More abstractly, I want them to learn how to patiently wait and tend small beginnings, and also to cultivate life.
After opting to rest our garden space this season, my sister mentioned letting our autumn garden go to seed, a new process for our home. The children are generally familiar with the work of seeds at this point and the assortment of sizes we find at our local farm store, but we’ve never seen them grow from the vegetable plant itself. This was the perfect year to try.
Our broccoli plants were hearty this year and produced well, so we opted to begin there. For weeks the stalks extended, shooting a stray broccoli floret that if left untouched would flower with the gentlest yellow blooms. Sometimes we would eat them anyway and find them just as tender. Nibbling vegetables straight from the garden is a simple life pleasure. After a while, the plant began to make slim bean pods, like a miniature sugar snap pea or green bean. We left them on the stem to dry out right on the plant. This process took a few weeks. When we noticed the pods turn a golden straw color, it was time to collect the seeds. The boys were away that afternoon, so the girls and I enjoyed the easy task of plucking pods and emptying seeds into a bowl on our own. It was a simple task for a child of any age to enjoy. The dried pods easily pried open to release the minuscule black seeds. For simplicity, we used a bowl, and afterward I funneled the seeds into a small, air-tight glass jar which I’ll store in our pantry until the autumn planting season. Although it’s still early in the summer growing season for running to seed, I thought I’d share a few tips for any of you wanting to save your seeds later.
Collect heirloom seeds only. / Apparently, hybrid plants are often genetically programmed to be sterile after one season, so the harvested seeds may not sprout next season. If you generally plant hybrid seeds, consider trying one heirloom plant to collect seeds from next season.
Allow seeds to dry on the plant. / It can take longer for seeds to dry out after plucking, so allow the sun and air to do the work for you. Let them dry before you pick them.
Plan ahead for seed saving. / Not all plants produce seeds the first growing season. Also if I had planted a spring garden, the broccoli wouldn’t have gone to seed quick enough for us to collect. According to this article, beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers are the best plants for beginning seed savers. Since tomatoes are commonly grown in this season, here’s a helpful page on saving tomato seeds.
Be patient. / This part of the process takes just as much patience as waiting for the first fruits. I will note: it didn’t require quite as much work in the waiting.