RESOURCE: Seeds of Diversity

How To Save Your Own Seeds: A Handbook for Small Scale Seed Production

This Seeds of Diversity publication helps aspiring and experienced seed savers alike, to build skill and confidence.  With detailed, step-by-step seed saving and storage instructions accompanied by illustrations and photographs, this publication is a fantastic educational resource for any eco learning environment.

Basic Instructional Handouts (feel free to print or share online!)

Basic Plant Botany:

BOOK LIST: Books for Kids – Seeds

Books for Kids: Seed + GardenIt All Starts With A Seed
Author: Emily Bone / Illustrator: Sally Elford
Hamilton Public Library – J 635 BON
Quicklinks – It All Starts With A Seed
(Sample Pages)


Never Get Bored Outdoors
Authors: James Maclaine, Sarah Hull and Lara Bryan
Hamilton Public Library – *on order
Quicklinks – Never Get Bored Outdoors
(Sample Pages)


Flowers
Author: Emily Bone / Illustrator: Samara Hardy
(Sample Pages)

 

How Flowers Grow
Author: Emma Helbrough
Quicklinks – How Flowers Grow

Gardening for Beginners
Authors: Emily Bone, Abigail Wheatley / Illustrator: Lisa DeJohn
Hamilton Public Library – J 635 BON
Quicklinks – Gardening For Beginners
(Sample Pages)


Quicklinks – It All Starts With A Seed
Quicklinks – Never Get Bored Outdoors
Quicklinks – How Flowers Grow
Quicklinks – Gardening For Beginners

PLANT LIST: Easy Seeds to Save

garddwest seed saving plant list

** some seeds are easier than others to save, certain seeds require specific techniques and many hybridize

Have you ever scooped pumpkin seeds before carving a jack-o-lantern?  You were halfway to “Seed Saving”, and  if you cleaned them for roasting, you were almost there!

Instead of roasting the pumpkin seeds, simply cleaning and air drying them will provide you ample seeds to grow more pumpkins next spring.  All seeds of the Cucurbitaceae family can be saved this way – squash, pumpkins, some gourds, zucchini, cucumbers, melons.  You may already be familiar with “seed saving” peas and beans, if you have ever forgotten a few pods on the vine.  When harvesting your beans and peas, leave a few pods on the plant to turn brown.  Remove the hardened seeds from the pod and ensure they are entirely dry before storing.

Save seeds from fruit or vegetables you grow yourself, or purchase produce from local farmers, markets or gardeners to ensure suitable seeds for your climate.

There are so many different reasons to save your own seeds – from breeding your own garden favourites to trying new farmers-market specialties, you can grow varieties you might never be able to purchase.  Cost-effective, one tomato can produce more seeds than a shopping basket full of seed packets!  Using locally-adapted seeds will increase diversity while strengthening the health of your garden.  Even if you just save seeds from just one variety you have come to love, and continue to purchase the rest of your seeds, the results are still very rewarding.  Saving your own seed is a fun, economical way to get a jump on next year’s gardening season!

HOW TO – Seed Saving 101

CLICK HERE for basic instructions

FEATURE: Seed Saving 101

Saving your own seed is a fun, economical way to get a jump on next year’s gardening season!

Have you ever scooped pumpkin seeds before carving a jack-o-lantern?  You were halfway to “Seed Saving”, and  if you cleaned them for roasting, you were almost there!  Instead of roasting the pumpkin seeds, simply cleaning and air drying them will provide you ample seeds to grow more pumpkins next spring.  All seeds of the Cucurbitaceae family can be saved this way – squash, pumpkins, some gourds, zucchini, cucumbers, melons.  Save seeds from fruit or vegetables you grow yourself, or purchase produce from local farmers, markets or gardeners to ensure suitable seeds for your climate.

There are so many different reasons to save your own seeds – from breeding your own garden favourites to trying new farmers-market specialties, you can grow varieties you might never be able to purchase.  Cost-effective, one tomato can produce more seeds than a shopping basket full of seed packets!  Using locally-adapted seeds will increase diversity while strengthening the health of your garden.  Even if you just save seeds from just one variety you have come to love, and continue to purchase the rest of your seeds, the results are still very rewarding.

Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

garddwest's seed saving guide

  1. Only select seeds from your healthiest looking plants.
  2. When your fruit or vegetables are fully ripe, harvest and remove the seeds from inside.  Other types of seeds will dry on the plant before you harvest.
  3. Rinse and remove wet plant material from wet seeds.  Brush and remove dry plant material from dry seeds.
  4. Air dry seeds thoroughly before packing, to prevent decay.
  5. Some seeds will require specialized “stratification” before or after storing.
  6. Keep your seeds out of direct sunlight in cool, dry location.
    (average shelf life: 2-3 years)

*** please note: these are broad, basic instructions to get you started.  Certain types of seed require specific seed saving techniques – further research may be required.

BOOK REVIEW: The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener

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Eventually, I returned my library book and purchased my own copy (according to Goodreads, I’m not the only person to do this) because The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour continues to be a main reference when I plan my seasons every year.

Having started my food-growing career in Mattawa and Thunder Bay, I am often skeptical of claims made by books and resources from outside of Canada (with the exception of Eliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook).  Even books from Southern Ontario rarely deal with the realities of Thunder Bay’s short season, short days and long, sunny winters.  Niki’s unique experience growing in Halifax was very transferable to the northern regions where I started Garddwest, and continue to be relevant here in Hamilton.  As another Goodreads reviewer mentioned, “when a book is written from the region you live, it has a lot more credibility than when a Floridian tells you what’s possible in Canada” and I can’t agree more.

Eliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook is a rigorous and scientifically thorough manual, the go-to reference on this subject, but Niki’s Year-Round Vegetable Gardener is possibly a better fit for a beginner-intermediate winter gardener getting started at home or in a community setting.

Niki touches on the basics of timing, temperature and light needs, providing background for her more practical instructional content.  One area where Niki does dig deeper is soil sciences – suggesting sustainable methods including cover crops, crop rotation, organic fertilizers and building a healthy soil profile.  A section on intensive farming in small spaces directly addresses small scale urban agriculture and backyard farmers.  With tips and tricks for growing, plus concrete blueprints for building cold frames and tunnels, this book has all the information required to get started with Cool Season Gardening.

The Year-Round Vegetable GardenerThe Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
by Niki Jabbour

Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Read my review on Goodreads

View all my Goodreads reviews

PLANT LIST: Cool Season Crops

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GARDDWEST’s Recommended Cool Season Crops:

  • BEETS
  • BROAD BEANS
  • BROCCOLI
  • CABBAGE
  • CAULIFLOWER
  • KALE (CURLY)
  • KALE (RUSSIAN)
  • KALE (LACINATO)
  • KOHLRABI
  • LEAFY GREENS (MIXED)
  • LEEKS
  • ONIONS
  • PAK CHOI
  • PEAS
  • RADISHES
  • SWISS CHARD (WHITE)
  • SWISS CHARD (RAINBOW)

FEATURE: Cool Season Edible Gardens

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What is cool season gardening?

There is a whole category of vegetables and edibles happiest in cooler temperatures, including many that can handle a light frost or even dusting of snow!  Here in Southern Ontario, that means seeding and planting in August, for harvest beginning September and usually lasting into November.  Cold frames, cloches, mulches and row covers with insulating fleece frost blankets can also extend this cool season right up until winter sets in.

Cool season gardening is defined more by temperature than date.  In our climate zone, cool season crops grow best when the air temperatures average around 20°C, and soil is 10°C – 20°C in the root zone, 12-15 cm beneath the surface of the soil.  Below 10°C, nutrient absorption slows and mycorrhizal fungi are less active.  Using a soil probe to monitor the temperature in a few areas of your garden can be beneficial as different pockets of soil will warm and cool at varying rates.  Finding a location in your garden that stays fairly consistent can be as important as finding the right soil temperature.

REFERENCES:
When To Plant In Ontario
When To Start Sowing Cool Season Crops
Filling Out Your Fall Garden
Working With Frost Dates
Cool Weather Crops