st_ouennais (st_ouennais) wrote,

Of seeds and seasonality

Feariing we might get hit with high winds  from the remnant of hurricane Helene, I've been focussed on saving seed in the field. Particularly from the taller plants most likely to be damaged such as quinoa and amaranth. I planted later than usual because of the wet cold start to the year.  Consequently their harvest is later too  though they have gained a week or so due to the very mild weather  recently.

It is a very inefficient  use of my time  really  - it takes a few hours to harvest and  winnow a kilo of grain by hand.  However I realy like the look of the plants - they are sometimes sold as ornamentals.  Those I don't  harvest  will be readily raided by hunrgy birds later in  the year and when I do get round to cutting down the stalks prior to planting  maincrop potatoes next year they will provide a useful bulk of high carbon material for compost making.

I have had a vexing time this year with some seeds.  Packet after packet of the bought in parsnip and lettuce failed to germinate.  Fortunately I had  some of my own saved seed of the same varieties that did germinate.  I  might put that down to the catalogue I use has changed management and perhaps they  got their handling wrong early on?

Interestingly while I struggled to get some  things to germinate, I had quite a lot of self seeded lettuce, parsnip, chard and radish  come up.  It reminded me of a question I have meant to look into before and never persued.  Why do gardeners and growers  sow seeds in Spring when nature scatters them in Autumn?

I can identify a few reasons.  First, there are those seeds that require particular treatment to germinate.  Typically non native plants that need  protection or more warmth (or cold!)  than would likely happen if left to try to self seed.  Second there is  variety and selection - particularly if you grow hybrids  - they won't come true or might cross pollinate.  Third is control.  Important for anyone using mechanisation to have a degree of uniformity.  But also for  successional croping to  ensure a continual harvest through the season rather than a glut. 

But for all that I cannot help wondering if there might be something in scattering  selected seed of indigenous and naturalised seed in the Autumn to save effort in the Spring. And then there is another question about seed sowing .  Nature  mixes things up  - different plants of diverse species growing  together.  There are gardeners who do that - its called polyculture.  I'm not sure how I'd manage that under the strict Organic certification rules requirung crop rotation.

Maybe if I have another year of germintion failure while self seeded stuff pops up I'Il give it a go.

Tags: germination, harvest, seed catalogues
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