Ep #21 – Seed Saving Facts

Gardeners have been saving seeds for thousands of years. First for food security, then to preserve the best varieties and more recently to ensure biodiversity. 

Seed saving is something that was a given for our great grandparents but is a practice that has petered out over the last few generations. Why? 

Because of the advent of commercialisation of the gardening industry. We can pop down to the shops and buy seeds for almost anything a home gardener may want to grow. You can even buy seeds in a well-known discount and seconds store here in Australia so the need for saving your own seeds has nearly disappeared. 

I say nearly because last year for the first time in my and my parents’ lifetime a pandemic that saw all seedlings and seeds fly off the shelves in a flurry of panic buying along with the much-coveted loo paper.

If you were like me you may have felt a little pang of annoyance that want to be gardeners purchased bulk seeds with the very real intention of growing their own food but with the knowledge that those seeds would likely never see the light of day.

I am not poo-pooing anyone’s genuine interest and attempts in growing their own, I mean that is what I would ultimately love to see, I am just sad for the 1000s of seeds that will never even make it out of the packet. 

For the seed savers of the world, this point in our recent history was a slight inconvenience. Maybe they couldn’t get a hybrid variety they wanted, but they could still go about their normal preparing, planting, harvest and seed saving cycle without much interruption. 

When thinking about seed types I put them into 3 categories. Standard open-pollination, heirloom and hybrids. 

 

Open-Pollination

Is when the plant is pollinated by wind, insect, bird or other natural mechanisms. They may even be pollinated by human intervention. Open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse and thus have a greater variation between parent plants and their offspring.

The benefit being that plants can slowly adapt over a number of generations to their local growing conditions. As long as there is no cross-pollination between different varieties of the same species then you will get true to type seeds meaning that the seeds from the parent plant will produce a replica offspring. 

 

Heirloom

Heirloom varieties are those with a history of being passed down through family or community. Think family heirloom and you get the picture. Here is the important part. All heirlooms must be open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated plants are heirloom varieties. 

What gives an heirloom variety the privilege of having this prestigious title? It’s age. BUT, this metric is fiercely debated. Some say the cultivar must be over 50 years old, others say 100 years and some say 1951 is the magical date that the variety must have excited before for it to be labelled as an heirloom. One thing that’s not widely debated however is that heirlooms are varieties that are not grown in large scale agriculture. 

 

Hybrid

Hybrid seeds are those that are labelled F1 on the packet. These are deliberately created to breed a desired trait. Hybrids are bred for all sorts of traits like disease or pest resistance, taste, size, colour, growth speed and hardiness for longer shelf life. The first generations of a hybrid generally grow better than their parents due to a phenomenon called hybrid vigour. If you are curious about how this happens lookup heterosis.  

Hybrids are a great option for food production but not for saving seeds. You will not get true to type fruit or may not get a result at all as some commercial seeds produce fruit with sterile seeds. If you want to have hybrids as part of your food crop you will need to purchase seeds each year. 

 

So, hybrids are out for seed saving.  You just need to decide if you want to grow standard open-pollination, heirlooms or both.  

Unless you are growing in an enclosed environment like a greenhouse with no other varieties of the same plant it is likely that some of your bubbas are going to look a little different to their Mumma. That’s because their papa could be from anywhere. Neighbouring gardens or even a kilometre or more away.  

These are mostly insect or wind-pollinated plants like beets, chards, pumpkins, zucchini, chilli peppers and capsicum, all the brassicas, corn, onions, carrots, melons but not watermelon and cucumbers. 

To make it a little more interesting some cross-pollination happens within families. Sounds a bit seedy ( bad pun but I just couldn’t help myself). Broccoli will cross-pollinate with cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, cabbage or kale. Some zucchini will cross with some pumpkins and other summer squashes and asparagus will even cross with its wild cousin.

 

In these instances, if you want to save seeds that are true to type you will need a way of ensuring that pollination occurs with the same variety. This can be done a few ways. 

As I mentioned earlier you can grow them in isolation within an enclosed area. You will need to hand pollinate them as you won’t have insects or wind to do the do. This method is the only way to 100% ensure that wind-pollinated plants stay true to type. 

If you don’t mind a little diversity but want to reduce the likelihood of your plants getting sexy with the neighbours you can grow your plants in an area within a barrier like a fine mesh fence for wind-pollinated plants or between swathes of other non-compatible crops or flowers to disrupt the pollen path. Growing them as far apart from each other can help too but it’s like trying to keep 2 overzealous and madly in love 17yr olds away from each other. 

For insect-pollinated plants, you may choose to become the bee and pollinate your own flowers (bee costume would be a great addition, but not technically needed).

As soon as you have a male and female flower you can transfer pollen from the male flower to female flowers and then covers her with a mesh bag preventing her from being visited by pollen carrying insect. This is a really effective method but you have to be on it like white on rice. You can even bag a few buds before they open to ensure no one has beaten you to it. 

Then you have the self-pollinating plants. These smarty plants have both male and female parts in the same flower so there is no need to go elsewhere for the goods. These include lettuce, peas, beans, tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, corn, capsicums and peanuts. 

Pollination for these varieties happens through the movement of the flower from wind or insects on the flower such as the beating of a bee’s wings or a lady beetle walking around looking for lunch. Giving them a light shake will do the same thing.  

Now just because they can self pollinate doesn’t mean they always do. If a bee comes in with pollen from a neighbouring plant that is a different variety you will get cross-pollination. The same goes for if you plant your sweetcorn downwind from your blue corn you will get sweetcorn with a twist. 

Collecting your seeds will depend on the plant that you’re collecting them from. Where fruit contains the seeds inside the fruit well you will need to let the fruit ripen, harvest it and collect the seeds when you cut the fruit open to eat it.

Allow these seeds to dry out on some paper towel or cloth but don’t forget to label them with what it was and when it was harvested. You have no idea the number of seeds I have collected and don’t know what variety they are. 

Where the plants produce seeds directly from flowers such as herbs, radish, brassicas or lettuce you will need to select the plants you are willing to sacrifice and let these go to through their full lifecycle to produce seeds, ideally leaving them to dry on the plant before collecting.

Sore seeds in a cool, dry and ideally dark place. I keep mine in ring binders slipped into sleeves. This way I can find them easily and I know what I have at a glance.  

There are tonnes of great resources out there for free including

They have great articles that go deeper into the specifics on what, how and when to save seeds. They also include how long you can keep seeds, suggested social distances for your plants, and what cross-pollinates with what. 

To take it to the next level you could also become a total seed dork and join a local seed savers club. This is a great way to learn more, share seeds and make awesome friends just as dorky as we are! Some local councils also have a seed library where you can ‘borrow’ seeds, grow the plant and ‘return’ the seeds from the plants you grew. 

I find the life of plants totally fascinating and learning more helps me not only understand the importance of plant diversity to the overall ecosystem but the importance of my role as one human being doing my bit to support biodiversity in my backyard.

Do you have a question? Ask on the Facebook Page or why not ask via Insta stories! Let’s all share in the learning. 

 

More information

Full show notes at www.sohfarmlet.com.au/podcast

Blogs – www.sohfarmlet.com.au/blog

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Download Free Guide Getting Started With Composting

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Ep #18 – 8 Common Herbs with Medicinal Properties

Medical herbs have been used for eons. Some now see it as outdated and others swear and even rely on the power of healing herbs. Wherever you sit on this scale there’s no denying that some plants, especially herbs have properties that can aid in the all-round treatment of ailments and injuries. 

Many of the common herbs that we use for flavours in teas and food have medicinal qualities that many of us aren’t aware of. 

Herbal medicine is used worldwide and forms part of many systems of medicine including Chinese, Ayurvedic aka Indian, Native American, Folk Medicine across Europe and Indigenous Australian. Many of our common pharmaceuticals started their life as plants before becoming the primarily synthetic versions we have today. 

Medicinal herbs can be taken as tea, extracts and powders. They can be made into compresses, poultices, ointments, soaks and wraps. Some are for external use only and others need to be used in minimal quantities. 

I wanted to share with you 8 common and easy to grow herbs with medicinal properties. It’s likely you already grow a few of these versatile beauties. 

Before I do, I want to add a disclaimer. I am not a medical professional, nor an educated herbalist or am I particularly skilled in using herbs outside of cooking and basic teas so if you plan to use these or any herbs as a replacement or in addition to conventional medicine you should consult a suitable and qualified professional. This goes 10 fold if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, elderly, ill or have any preexisting conditions.

 

1. Rosemary

Rosemary is a staple of any edible garden. It is a Mediterranean plant that likes it warm and sunny. Once established it’s hardy and super low maintenance. There are many varieties of rosemary with white, purple, blue and pink flowers. This perennial herb is best grown from cuttings from new wood.

Medicinal properties of rosemary are said to include increased memory, decreased inflammation, appetite stimulant, circulation and calm upset stomach. 

How I have used my rosemary in the past, is as a hair tonic. I boiled water and turned it off then chucked in a handful of rosemary cuttings. Left it to cool and rinsed my hair in it. It made it feel soft, looked shiny and I smelt very floral all day. 

 

2. Garlic

While not technically a herb, garlic is known for its beneficial qualities. Garlic is great at boosting immunity, as an antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal. Lets us not forget it is also the go-to herb for repelling vampires. Just sayin’

It has also been linked to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and boost circulation. 

Plant garlic cloves in autumn for a late spring/summer harvest. I have just put in my early crop. This year is White Crookneck, Monaro Purple, Glenlarge and El Camino. There are varieties that can be grown in most places but they do need some cold weather and transition in the days’ short daylight to long daylight hours to produce good-sized bulbs.

I wouldn’t recommend a nice hot cup of garlic tea unless that’s your thing, not judging, but if you cook with garlic as we do then you will already be reaping the benefits of this wonder food. 

 

3. Dandelion

Dandelions are so underrated in my opinion. Most gardeners consider this amazing herb as a weed because it is so hardy it will literally grow nearly anywhere there is a sniff of a nutrient or drop of moisture. 

This herb has so many proclaimed benefits that it can’t be overlooked. Plus they are actually amazing to have in your garden. They have a super strong taproot that helps break up heavy soil and help neighbouring plants access deeper nutrients. 

Dandelion leaves and roots are what is primarily used in medicine but all parts can be eaten including the flower. 

Leaves are used in reducing water retention hence the name I knew them by as a child. Wet-the-beds. They can help in digestion and can sometimes cause gas as part of the process. They are high in antioxidants and may aid the liver and are said to suppress appetite. 

If you are planning on running out to find yourself some dandelion in the local park be sure you check it hasn’t been exposed to chemicals or dog urine. 

 

4. Chamomile

Pretty yellow and white daisy flowers are used to make the popular chamomile tea. If you have ever wondered down the tea aisle of your local supermarket you would see that there seem to be 100 different variations of chamomile tea that proclaim to help insomnia and send you off to the land of nod. 

What you may not know is that it can also assist in nausea, inflammation and when made into a balm or salve can be rubbed onto muscles and used as a muscle relaxant. 

Great for after a big day in the garden or calming muscle spasms caused by menstrual cramps. 

It prefers a cooler climate and is great for those part shade spots you don’t know what to plant in. Once it’s established, neglect it. I have killed several chamomile shrubs with too much love. Seriously walk past it once a week and give it the stink eye, it will love you for it. 

Chamomile is relatively safe however anyone who is sensitive to daisies, aster or ragweed should check their tolerances first.

 

5. Aloe Vera

Mostly known for the beautiful cooling sticky gel that is used to calm angry sunburn Aloe vera is so much more. 

There is An edible and non-edible variety. apparently way back when there was a cock-up with naming these different varieties and now there’s much confusion over the correct name for the correct variety. A really good way to tell the difference between edible and non-edible is that edible aloe vera has a grey tinged leaf with very few markings and they’re really fat and juicy. Non-edible varieties are usually more vibrant green with thinner leaves and have prominent whitish flecks.

Edible aloe is said to aid digestion, blood sugar stabilization and treating stomach ulcers. 

Non-edible is best used for burns. Use fresh as the potency decreases the longer it exposed to air. 

I have the edible variety in my garden and I add it to fresh juices but mainly as skincare. I peel back the outer leaf and rub the gel into my skin. When using it as face cream it feels pretty bloody yuck and has an odd smell but this only last about 20 mins then my skin feels lovely and hydrated. 

6. Echinacea

Also called purple coneflower is a member of the sunflower family and is used as an immunity booster. It has proved effective in helping fight minor viral and bacterial infections such as cold and flu by stimulating white blood cells.

It is said that you need to take enough for it to be effective, taking a smaller dose won’t have the beneficial effect of the full dose. Saying that, if you are sensitive to plants in the aster family then you may be allergic to this herb. People with autoimmune diseases should speak with their health care practitioner before taking.

These pretty flowers grow easily from seed and are perennials that will die back and grow again year after year. 

 

7. Turmeric

Most of us use turmeric in our cooking but not many of us are using raw turmeric. Some have found that consuming raw turmeric has better results than powdered supplements. Turmeric is said to be a powerful anti-inflammatory especially for those with chronic joint conditions such as arthritis and those with chronic dermatitis. 

Use grated in a curry, salad, soup or in eggs. Make a turmeric latte or add to your choice of milk for a golden tea.  

Turmeric is a root similar to ginger and grows well in tropical and subtropical climates. We grow it here in our temperate climate but our yield is much smaller and we must protect it from frost or allow it to die back and reshoot when the weather warms up. 

 

8. Lavender

If you are having a hard day go and stick your face in a lavender bush and all will be ok. Just make sure there are no bees there first or your day will go from bad to total crap. 

Lavender isn’t just pretty and smells nice it has been proven to decrease stress and anxiety levels through it’s soothing and sedative properties. Putting a bunch of fresh lavender in a mesh bag under your pillow will help you drift off feeling wonderful. Bruise the leaves to stimulate the oil to release and when it’s spent, chuck it in the compost and pick yourself a fresh bunch. 

It also has potential anti-inflammatory benefits when used as an oil on the skin, and can keep flies and mosquitoes away when planted near doors. We have tried this and our flies clearly didn’t get the memo. I think we would have to plant it so thick the flies wouldn’t be able to find their way in. 

Easy to grow in warm temperate climates. They can handle a bit of cold but long humid periods will knock them around. Plant in full sun out of strong winds and go mad on all the different varieties out there. 

As mentioned earlier do your own homework and speak to your health care professional before embarking on trying new herbs. Never ever consume a herb that you aren’t 1000% sure of what it is and don’t ask Facebook communities… you don’t know how much someone actually knows. Get yourself a good guide book that is specific for your area and speak to local people who have been using the herbs you are thinking about using first. 

 

  

More information

Full show notes at www.sohfarmlet.com.au/podcast

Blogs – www.sohfarmlet.com.au/blog

Download Free – Chicken Keepers ‘Chicklist’ For Beginners

Download Free Guide Getting Started With Composting

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This Episode Sponsored by

This episode is sponsored by my soon to be released Self-Sufficiency Made Simple Composting Masterclass. This masterclass will help you go from wasting food and money to creating your own gold star garden soil system without mess, cost or hard work. The masterclass will show you how to choose, create and get started with your own simple system, all in your backyard.

Register your interest via email jo@sohfarmlet.com.au

 

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Review

I would be eternally grateful if you could give me a review as this will push the podcast out to more people, and it would make my heart sing, I’d love to hear what you have to say and what’s your favourite bit (and I will be giving a few shout outs each week).

For apple listeners, you can review HERE.

For other players follow the review link (if available) and leave a review on FaceBook or Instagram.  

 

Share

I would also love it if you could share this podcast with anyone you feel would enjoy conversations about growing food, keeping chickens, bees, rescue animals, making homemade products and all things self-sufficiency related.

I am so pleased and feel very privileged that you chose to join me this week. Thank you!

 

Let’s do it again next Wednesday. xx

Keeping chickens is so much easier than you think!

Download my simple beginners 'chicklist' to get you started.

Keeping chickens is so much easier than you think!

Download my simple beginners 'chicklist' to get you started.

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