Saving seeds each season is vital to continuing food production from year to year. In 2012 the Toronto Seed Bank was founded to properly store all non-genetically modified food and medicinal plant seeds, and has since set up storage and distribution sites throughout the city for community use. Information on TSB locations is available at every neighbourhood communication center (see section 8:a:i). Some herbs and vegetables, including potatoes and rhubarb, reproduce from propagation instead of from seeds, and plants grown from seed vary greatly in method of seed saving. Following are some basic guidelines.
1:f:i) COLLECTING & SAVING SEEDS
After the first crop, hold back part of the crop for seed. Be sure the seed is well matured, whole, healthy and young.
Fruited plants such as melons, tomatoes, green peppers and eggplant make their seeds inside the fruit. Allow the seed-bearing fruit get fully ripe, then scoop out the seeds and let them dry in open air, spread out into a thin layer on cloth or old paper.
Most other vegetables contain their seeds in the flowers. Many plants will only produce flowers if allowed to “go to seed” rather than get harvested earlier on, such as with herbs, lettuce and cruciferous vegetables. Snip off the flower heads and dry the heads. Store in a dry place for winter, and in the spring break apart the head to extract the seeds.
DRYING GRAIN FOR SEED
For seed, the grain should dry in the shock for a month or more before threshing, to ensure it is completely free of moisture. (When stored in a pile, threshed grain that is not totally dry will heat up enough to destroy the seed’s fertility, but is fine for consumption).
Once seeds are completely dry, store in containers that are clearly labeled with which plant the seed will produce. Clear glass jars work well. Seeds must not be heated or come into contact with moisture or strong light.
1:f:ii) SEED PROPAGATION
Vegetative propagation is reproducing plants any way other than by seeds. For multi-stemmed plants, dividing root clumps works well. Dig up a plant that is at least 2 years old and gently divide the roots and their connected stems.
Lemon balm, comfrey, mint and horseradish are some of the herbs that are propagated by root cuttings. Take a plant that is at least 2 years old and cut off a piece of root at least 2 inches in length.
With some shrubs, including rosemary, you can bend a branch over and cover in the middle with a layer of dirt. The covered area will eventually grow roots. When the extended plant is established it can be cut away and replanted elsewhere.
Tubers, including potatoes, send up stalks and grow flowers, but to propagate the plant it is necessary to use the actual root vegetable. For example, take a potato from a harvest and either plant it entirely in the ground, or cut into pieces — making sure each piece contains at least one eye — and plant each piece in the ground. From every eye a new plant grows.
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