Author Topic: Seed Saving Circle 2024  (Read 4272 times)

JanG

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Seed Saving Circle 2024
« on: May 07, 2024, 06:35:24 »
As soon as I see corn salad in flower I begin to think the seed saving season is not far away. Some committed seed savers might already have planted out root vegetables stored over winter for flowering and seed setting this summer. But whatever your level of seed-saving, itís time to be alert to the opportunities ahead.

Itís been a challenging season for many with so much constant rain in UK through winter and spring, leading to waterlogged soil and delayed spring planting. I hope that in spite of the challenges the weather throws at us, youíre having an enjoyable spring sowing and planting, including dipping into the wonderful range of seeds the Circle shared in late 2023. It would be very good to hear of progress and to share results and experiences. I hope that last yearís enthusiastic band will be willing and able to participate again and it would also be great if any new members would like to join us.

For those who havenít participated before, hereís some information to help you decide if you would like to join.

The Seed Circle is open to all A4A participants; itís great to have new people join too. The group is all about setting aside a little growing space, and time, to raise some crops for seeds, keeping the group informed as to how the season is going, then at the end of the season, probably in November, sharing some growing information and your saved seeds with the group.

Each person decides what 2 or more crops they will grow and save seed from (we do inc. tubers, bulbs and cuttings, but do make sure they are well wrapped so that they don't dampen any seeds). They will then aim to save enough seed for other Circle members to grow a crop the following year. The group could be up to 12 people but is more often under 10. Recently it has numbered about 7 participants. Varieties will generally need to be heritage or open pollinated so that they will come true from seed (potato seeds wonít come exactly true). If you include grown out hybrids please state this clearly.

Some vegetables are easier and more reliable than others to save seed from. But generally peas, French beans, tomatoes, perhaps potatoes and some herbs are the easiest. Chillies, sweet peppers, squash, courgette and to some extent lettuce will need isolating from other varieties to keep seed pure.  Parsnips, onions, leeks, beetroot, carrots, celeriac and many brassicas only go to seed in the second year and need isolation from other varieties and so are more time-consuming and a little trickier.

Real Seeds created the idea for the circles. Their site gives some great seed saving tips as well as being a great seed catalogue http://www.realseeds.co.uk/seedsavinginfo.html.
There is also a brilliant series of shortish videos on seed saving for different vegetables at: https://www.diyseeds.org/en/

For anyone interested, what we shared in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 can be found with images and donorsí notes at https://airtable.com/shryC20nRNmUcgT30. Try Gallery View.

The seeds exchanged from 2017-2019 can be found at https://seedsaverscircle.home.blog/
And for seed exchanging from 2010 to 2016 at http://seedsaverscircle.org/seed-circle/a4a-seed-saver-group-2014/

And some previous threads for the Circles:
Seed Circle 2023 https://www.allotments4all.co.uk/smf/index.php/topic,83426.0.html
Seed Circle 2022 https://www.allotments4all.co.uk/smf/index.php/topic,83279.0.html
Seed Circle 2021 https://www.allotments4all.co.uk/smf/index.php/topic,83047.0.html
Seed Circle 2020 https://www.allotments4all.co.uk/smf/index.php/topic,82679.0.html


Please could a moderator pin this.

galina

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2024, 08:59:47 »
Thank you for offering to do the admin again for the A4A seed circle, Jan.  It is quite a bit of work as I remember from years ago, but also very satisfying.  And so many delicious and lovely plants are testimony to our seed saving efforts and your efficient hosting and distribution. 

Now that Britain has started to implement import checking, this unfortunately also affects seeds and cuttings or other plant parts.  After participating in this seed circle from the beginning and doing the distribution for some years, sadly I can no longer promise with any certainty that I can still participate from outside Britain.  Not by regular means anyway.  The faff of phytosanitary certification etc is a real problem for a small box of mixed seeds for the circle.  I would love to still participate this year, but there is no way I can actually promise to get seeds to UK.  Well, the chap who is likely to be the next PM, does talk about standards alignment and the like, so this difficulty participating may hopefully not persist for too long.       :crybaby2:
« Last Edit: May 10, 2024, 09:35:13 by galina »

JanG

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2024, 06:30:39 »
Thank you, Galina, for clarifying your situation. It would be wonderful if these, like so many other, difficulties in the way of international co-operation, can be moderated before too long. Iím really sorry that you, and presumably Ruud, are unable, at the moment, to guarantee participation in the Circle to which you have contributed so much over so many years.
Let us hope for better things to come, and soon.

galina

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2024, 11:47:46 »
And I would like to add that help will be given to all who would like to have a go.  Yes, there are vegetables that you can just let go to seed and collect, others need isolation and handpollination,  and some are really demanding, take two years to come to seed fruition and then also need minimum numbers.  But there are plenty in the easy or relatively easy category.  I hope that somebody will read this who is new to seed saving and will want to give it a try. For years I wondered whether my own seeds were 'good enough'.  Home saved seeds are usually way more than adequate and grow away better than commercial ones.  Of course mistakes can and do happen but we all learn from mistakes.   No big deal.    Give it a go. 

markfield rover

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2024, 08:32:19 »
I am going into the greenhouse to read the riot act to all my sulking seedlings  , this year as Terry-Thomas would say are a ďRight ShowerĒ so I am tentatively throwing my hat into the circle.

Vetivert

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2024, 15:27:01 »
Hi everyone!

The sun is shining and the beans are sprouting - count me in! :sunny:

garrett

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2024, 21:30:28 »
I'll be joining in again. I have some new cherry tomatoes, beans, sweet pepper and some flowers if they come true again this year.

I'll update later with variety names and give growing updates throughout the season.

juliev

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2024, 10:01:08 »
Count me in!

I've taken on another plot at the allotment as I had too many things to grow! I'm not sure another round of Seed Circle will help... I might need a field in a few years time  :toothy10:

I can't wait to see how the season progresses. Happy growing everyone!

JanG

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2024, 22:06:27 »
I'm delighted that lso many of last year's participants are keen to join again. It would be great if Galina and Ruud could find a way of also participating but in the meantime it's excellent news that we have a good viable circle of at least five!

Congratulations on doubling your allotment holding, Juliev, and good luck with your sulky seedlings, Markfield Rover. Hopefully there will be a big move forward now that things have at last got somewhat warmer and brighter.

Just today I planted out in my polytunnel several varieties of tomato from last year's Circle. I've just done a count and found that we had 25 varieties in last year's exchange! I've sown many of them but not quite all. I'm hoping to squeeze as many as possible into my polytunnel without creating too much of a chaotic jungle. I'm also immersed in bean seed sowing and trying to grow as many of the 30 varieties of French beans possible. All very exciting! I look forward to hearing from any of you as to how you're dealing with so many rich possibilities!

I'm confident we'll have another excellent exchange and look forward to hearing how last year's contributions are doing and how things are looking for this year's seed collecting.

juliev

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2024, 16:17:03 »
I'd love to know how you get organised too...
I've got maps and 100s of little bags everywhere!  :tongue3:
Do you rotate what you grow and save seeds from? Or grow some mixed for eating and some separate for seed saving?

JanG

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2024, 05:32:02 »
An interesting question, juliev. Maps etc sound very organised!

On rotation, Iíve begun to be influenced by Charles Dowding who has conducted comparisons and concluded that it makes little difference. With beans, for example, itís easier for me to keep some structures in place from year to year. I grow a lot of brassicas - not often for seed-saving - and havenít noticed a problem with overlapping some plantings on successive years. I try to rotate alliums where possible for fear of leaf miner recurring and white rot getting established. So far, so fairly good.

I use Airtable very heavily for knowing what Iíve sown and making lists etc., but If I have a set of something to plant out, I often donít know which empty space Iím going to plant them in until I wander around and look to see where might be best. Sometimes Iíll earmark a space for something, like now where Iím keeping a good sunny spot free for a second batch of sweetcorn.

For seed-saving, Iím lucky to have two growing areas about 100 metres apart. I can do a certain amount of isolating that way. I tend to mix in the eating and the seed-saving unless thereís something Iím very keen to get seed from in which case I wouldnít eat from it at all.

This is certainly a time of year which taxes the grey matter and keeps us thinking of lots of factors all  at once. Lots of tricky decisions to be made!

I donít expect my wandering description conveys much clarity at all, probably because there isnít any kind of grand master plan. Iím aware some people plan their layout through the winter and have an overall map. I couldnít get anywhere near that as there are just so many variables and so many decision made on the hoof.

I would also be very interested to hear experiences from others. Iím also aware that isolating and crop protection must be more difficult for allotment holders as youíre surrounded by the crops and predators of other growers. Iím surrounded by farm land but do sometimes have to reckon with nearby fields of maize and field beans which will affect seed saving. And occasionally predators from around are a problem, like some years Iíve thought that flea beetles have descended in force when the rape crop has been gathered in. So I now protect my most valued brassicas plants with fine mesh rather than just netting.

An endless and fascinating subject, so Iíd better stop now! .
« Last Edit: May 30, 2024, 05:45:53 by JanG »

markfield rover

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2024, 09:12:04 »
Every year is the year I am going to get organised have a system , I am getting better but so much room for improvement . I have a small ten drawer filing cabinet mainly in order of sowing dates , but lettuce, tomatoes and beans are separate, fail number one! I also like to keep seed swap seeds separate, fail number two!  I am more organised with the seed swap , I grow on the allotment which means isolation is difficult , last year I added runner beans but these were grown at home. I have a separate bed for the seed circle and rarely use the produce ,seed saving being the priority. I keep a separate notebook for these seeds.
I think my problem is that I see each seed as a bit of a wonder and not just another seed .
The end result is plenty to eat and share. Sorry not to have been able to give any helpful ideas.

Tee Gee

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2024, 15:22:29 »
This is how I planned my seed sowing and planting out schedule; https://www.thegardenersalmanac.co.uk/Content/P/Planning/Planning.htm

Click on the images to enlarge them.

JanG

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2024, 05:32:18 »
Every year is the year I am going to get organised have a system , I am getting better but so much room for improvement . I have a small ten drawer filing cabinet mainly in order of sowing dates , but lettuce, tomatoes and beans are separate, fail number one! I also like to keep seed swap seeds separate, fail number two!  I am more organised with the seed swap , I grow on the allotment which means isolation is difficult , last year I added runner beans but these were grown at home. I have a separate bed for the seed circle and rarely use the produce ,seed saving being the priority. I keep a separate notebook for these seeds.
I think my problem is that I see each seed as a bit of a wonder and not just another seed .
The end result is plenty to eat and share. Sorry not to have been able to give any helpful ideas.
That actually sounds rather organised,MR. My seeds are much more scattered than yours. I have some in a little freezer, lettuce are in a box in the fridge, and others are in a utility room cupboard in various boxes.
I also admire the way you have a separate bed for the seed circle which implies that you think out in advance what youíd like to contribute, whereas Iím much less methodical and decide as the season progresses.
I very much like your feeling that each seed is a wonder.  I completely agree and the ways in which seed germinates never fail to amaze and for me creates one of my main excitements in growing.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2024, 06:10:08 by JanG »

JanG

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2024, 06:09:15 »
This is how I planned my seed sowing and planting out schedule; https://www.thegardenersalmanac.co.uk/Content/P/Planning/Planning.htm

Click on the images to enlarge them.

I very much enjoyed looking at the way you organised your sowing and planting, Tee Gee. I imagine that, like you, many of us have moved from paper to computer records. As Iíve said before I use Airtable and what I love about it is that I can use it on my phone too and, for example, take a photo of a variety out in the garden and add it immediately to the record. I used to rely on a table I drew up of what to sow in each week of the year but decided on varieties as I went along. I still use this paper table sometimes as an extra check that Iím not missing anything.

My two growing areas consist of beds about four feet wide with grass paths between, wide enough to take our ride-on mower, so not too labour intensive, though keeping edges cut back is a regular task. But I have an elaborate system for recording bed numbers in polytunnel and in-ground beds. But in my case itís for my records, not for advance planning.

In your notes you raise the question of not growing excess because of space at this time of year before young plants are planted out. I certainly agree that this is a significant aspect. For certain crops, mainly the tender ones, I do have a lot of spares as an insurance. For example I mostly grow only one plant of each tomato variety as I have a lot of varieties I want to try each year. But I always pot on two and then choose the stronger one to plant on. All those extra tomato plants take up a lot of space. I do the same for aubergines, peppers, melons and cucurbits, so even more space. The waste of compost worries me although it ends up back on flower or vegetable beds so not exactly wasted, and some spares can be given away.

Juliev raised such an interesting subject. I guess we all devise approaches which fit our growing conditions but also reflect the ways our minds work. For example, Iím a meticulous recorder but shy away from being over-planned as I like to leave things open to chance or whim or circumstances at the time.


juliev

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2024, 08:44:59 »
Thank you all for sharing your process, it is fascinating!

I am very much a pencil and paper person but I keep track of varieties and main info on an excel spreadsheet, as well as a rough sowing timeline and planting plans. I plan ahead for crops that need protection or that need longer in the ground. Others, I just draw the map after planting.
The seed boxes have multiplied (totally not my fault!). Separate ones for beans, peas, squashes, corn, and the rest goes in a final box. Add to that the extras for the seeds library... At least they are all in the same area  :icon_cheers: Every month, I pull out what needs sowing into the "sow now" box and then they go back to where they belong. I really need to sort out a freezer back up...
Dealing with the volume of baby plants has been a challenge... Aubergines, peppers/chillies, tomatoes take up so much room for such a long time! I even left some in cells as an experiment and planted the survivors at the allotment (they can crop or they can become compost...). This year, I did all the beans and corn direct and most of the squashes (the direct seeded ones are doing better than the ones I started in pots).

JanG

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2024, 07:07:36 »
Thank you all for sharing your process, it is fascinating!

This year, I did all the beans and corn direct and most of the squashes (the direct seeded ones are doing better than the ones I started in pots).

Thatís very interesting. A real time, space and compost saver, and one Iím thinking might be worth trying another year.
I grow my squashes in rather heavy unimproved soil which was recently untamed meadow. I could perhaps create sowing pockets into which to drop seeds, just as at the moment I create planting pockets.

For beans, some of which are particularly precious varieties, I sow about five in deepish modules but if thereís any shortfall I direct sow a few extras too when I plant out.

I believe that neither squash nor corn like root disturbance so itís interesting that your plants are stronger from direct seeded. Do you have many failures? I guess one advantage of starting in modules is that youíre less likely to have gaps but of course thereís no guarantee that a planted out squash wonít be entirely demolished by a slug, which has happened to a couple of mine!

galina

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2024, 07:36:58 »
This is so similar to my experience.  In Rushden I had little choice but to pre-grow almost everything, as occasional early June frosts on very heavy, cold clay soil was what I was dealing with.  Here I have started experimenting with direct sowing.  I also found that plants initially were stronger as a result, but I have more losses due to slugs and rodents and also generally a lower germination rate.   I still pregrow all my precious varieties where I only have a few seeds. 

The planting into pockets of good soil, is the method recommended by John Yeoman to give plants a good start on an otherwise not ideal plot of land.  As the pockets merge over the years, the bad soil gets better every growing cycle.  It works well.  And the gardener does not have the expense of improving all of the soil at once.  By the time the plant roots outgrow the good soil pocket, they will be strong enough to deal with hard clay and the roots will be big enough to seek out necessary nutrients a bit further away.   Not many of us produce Charles Dowding quantities of compost, enough for an overall covering of a couple of inches, so the pockets are a good compromise.

JanG

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2024, 06:42:23 »
Interesting to hear your experiences of direct sowing too, Galina. I usually say that I donít have too much of a slug problem compared with many people but this year they are certainly fairly rampant, especially on my newer meadow area, after the unusually wet winter and spring. Iím finding that itís the weaker plants they specially go for so Iím growing on for longer and aiming to plant out more robust plants, even repotting occasionally before planting on. I suppose direct sown seedlings are exposed to threats for longer. In a drier year, for later crops like beans, especially the less precious, it might be very worthwhile.
Here rodent attacks are much heavier in the winter. If I attempt peas in modules overwinter, Iím learning that itís much better to plant them out under cover as late as possible, February perhaps, when the mice/voles seem less desperate.
Having said that rodents here are mainly a problem in winter, some years rats find my sweetcorn patch and wreak havoc around September time.

For planting pockets, I keep the same two beds for squash plants. As squash are planted so far apart I think it will be a good few years before my planting pockets merge, but interesting to hear that John Yeoman approved! It certainly didnít seem to be worth attempting to improve the whole bed for squash, so they simply have to suffer the roughest end of my recently reclaimed area, making do with their rather hurriedly made pockets.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2024, 06:45:26 by JanG »

galina

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Re: Seed Saving Circle 2024
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2024, 06:22:01 »
An obelisk full of sweet pea?  Certainly getting there.  They look and smell divine.  Thank you vetivert.  I have never grown sweet peas before and love these Enigmas from our circle. 

ps  sorry thumbnail is sideways.  Loads the right way up for me.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2024, 06:51:05 by galina »

 

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